He’s been cast in a movie as Billy Shears, reluctantly worshiped as a teen idol and has been animated on both “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” But first and foremost, Peter Frampton has always been a guitarist. Proof of Frampton’s guitar skills were abundant Friday night, August 15, 2014, when he played to a sold out audience at the Wild Horse Pass Casino Ovations LIVE! Showroom in Chandler. There is good reason why Frampton is a guest guitarist on countless albums by other artists and appeared as part of the house band for “The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles” which aired on television earlier this year. Guitar playing is Frampton’s passion.
Recently Frampton gained notoriety of another kind for chucking a concert goer’s cell phone into the rafters at a concert on August 3 in Carmel, Indiana. Frampton's actions were justified. Despite pleas throughout that concert that no videos or photography was allowed, one person kept ignoring the request until Frampton had enough. In discussing “my incident” Friday night, Frampton explained the frustration he has with those who take cell phone pictures throughout the show including those “selfies,” where the band appears in the background. “It makes us feel like monkeys,” Frampton said.
On this night, Frampton gave the audience ample time to take as many photos and videos as they wanted during the first three songs he performed. It’s the same rule professional photographers must always follow. First three songs, no flash. But for a few who don’t think the rules apply to them, the audience was content with that. Many appreciated that their view of Frampton and his band was no longer blocked by the raised cell phones of those trying to capture, in some cases, the entire concert on film.
Not that the concert wasn’t worthy of being recorded. Frampton and his band, Rob Arthur on keyboards and guitar, Dan Wojciechowski on drums, Adam Lester on guitar and longtime Frampton bandmate, Stanley Sheldon on bass, came out smoking with “You Had to be There.” Flames erupted on a video screen behind the band, a nice special effect addition one doesn’t always see in a smaller venue. Frampton’s guitar work was already ablaze.
Frampton is well aware that the majority in the audience became acquainted with Frampton’s work due to his mega-smash album, 1976’s “Frampton Comes Alive!,” and he generously played seven songs found on that album. The familiarity of “Doobie Wah” and “It’s a Plain Shame” (side 1, songs 2 and 4 of “Frampton Comes Alive!” if you’re counting) got the audience clapping along. However the enthusiasm of the band onstage, of which there was plenty all night, had not quite yet filtered into the audience.
After greeting the audience and giving them their last chance for photos, Frampton toned things down with the acoustic “Lines on My Face.” Frampton’s voice sounded as if it were again 1976 and the song earned a standing ovation.
Frampton’s fame may have been attained by his album releases in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, but that hasn’t stopped him from creating new music. Frampton stated that although he enjoys playing his older material, there was a catch. In order to hear the old music, you had to listen to something brand new. For this night, the new was “Heart to My Chest,” off of his June, 2014 release, “Hummingbird in a Box,” an album written for the Cincinnati Ballet. The song showed the softer side of Frampton’s song writing talent, its beauty garnering another standing ovation.
As promised, Frampton went back to his older, better known material with “Show Me the Way.” This was the Frampton most in the audience had come to see, the song’s talk box effects and catchy melody causing many to sing along.
Although Frampton had shown off his guitar playing ability throughout the night, the point had been reached where Frampton got to do what he enjoys doing most, really play guitar. Frampton’s guitar wizardry was on full display with a trio of selections, “(I’ll Give You) Money,” which was sandwiched between, “Double Nickels” and “Black Hole Sun,” two songs from his all instrumental album, the Grammy award winning, “Fingerprints” (2006).
All three numbers were outstanding with Frampton and Lester engaging in guitar duets and guitar duels. While there was an airiness to the jams found in “Double Nickels,” it was the hard driving, lengthy version of “(I’ll Give You) Money” that really stood out. Frampton and Lester played off one another with such fervor that it brought a mid-song roar of approval from the crowd. “Could you tell we had fun doing it?” asked Frampton. The nods of agreement from the audience were similar to the head banging that had just previously occurred.
If it was the men who enjoyed the rocker Frampton, it was the ladies who appreciated the more mellow Frampton as they sang loudly along to “Baby I Love Your Way.” For this number, Frampton pulled out his restored acoustic guitar that he had used since his days with the group Humble Pie. The meaningful guitar to Frampton had sat underwater for three days due to flood waters a few years back and was slowly being brought back to life.
It didn’t take long for the opening notes of “Do You Feel Like We Do,” to bring the audience to their feet. Now the crowd was fully engaged, shouting out the chorus and pointing their fingers toward the stage when emphasizing the word “you.” The fans’ rhythmic clapping didn’t cease when Frampton effortlessly ran through another guitar solo and then played off of Rob Arthur’s keyboards. Although the elements from the live album’s popular version were present, this was a new, exciting presentation of the song.
Frampton’s highly anticipated use of the talk box in the song was accentuated by the video screen turning into an oscilloscope, each note of Frampton’s voice and guitar causing the flat line to spike. The song’s frenzied ending brought anyone who might have been sitting down back up. It was too soon for the show to end.
“Day in the Sun,” from Frampton’s 1994 album “Peter Frampton,” served as the encore. Some fans were disappointed that Frampton’s one hour and forty five minute set wasn’t longer. Don’t blame Frampton. Many factors, including time needed to get to the next concert or venue rules, control how long an act can perform. Given Frampton and his band’s enjoyment in performing, Frampton might have played all night long if he could.
As Frampton tried to say, he gets paid to travel to each city but plays onstage for free. There is real enjoyment in his performance. For the audience, it’s the joy in watching Frampton and his band play. For Frampton and his band, it’s the joy of playing.
Two things to remember if you are planning to attend a Peter Frampton concert. Don’t expect a night of ballads. Frampton is a rock guitarist first and will give you examples of his amazing craftsmanship time after time. But as a courtesy for both the band and for your fellow concert goers, just make sure you take pictures of those examples only during the first three songs.
Set List: You Had To Be There | Doobie Wah | It’s A Plain Shame | Lines On My Face | Heart To My Chest | Show Me The Way | Double Nickels | (I’ll Give You) Money | Black Hole Sun | Baby I Love Your Way | Do You Feel Like We Do | Encore: Day In The Sun