Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus started with a big boom at AVA Amphitheater on August 31, 2014. The tour blended blues guitar legends to the stage along with Frampton’s legendary rock guitar. The sets were trimmed down to 45 minutes except for Frampton’s 90-minute set that featured Robert Randolph’s three-song guest appearance.
Buddy Guy started the festivities determined to deliver as much of a Buddy Guy experience in a 45-minute set as possible. Guy launched into ”D___ Right I’ve Got The Blues” with as much vigor as someone half his age and demanded the same energy and attention from the audience. When he launched into “Someone Else Is Steppin’ In,” he stopped the song when the audience did not return the lyric with the same vigor. “Hold it. I was in Tokyo three weeks ago and they did not ---- it up. I believe I’m home now. I want to hear it right this time.” The audience came through the second time. Later in the set, he came off the stage to play and sing in the crowd. AVA is not a small venue, but he managed to cover all the seating levels. Mr. Guy spoke of the old days when he made what they call party records. “They don’t play this kind of blues on the radio anymore. I’ll sing you the first verse only because if I sing the second verse, you won’t invite me back!" The rest of the set had Buddy performing short versions of some of his classic tunes. Buddy Guy said it best toward the end of the set, "As long as I'm alive, I'll bring it to you."
After a 20-minute break, the show continued with blues legend, B.B.King. This was to be the only appearance for Mr. King with the “Guitar Circus” this summer. The set started with the BB King Blues band playing for ten minutes. The band was as stellar as they come. Mr. King made his entrance on stage and introduced the band before starting his three song-set. He was endearing as usual. It was a love fest between Mr. King and the audience. The crowd knew the lyrics and they gladly sang along. He mentioned that he was 88-years old and his next birthday is September 16. The set was over far too soon in 33 minutes.
The last set of the night was the headliner, Peter Frampton. The set started with a short film running in the background depicting Mr. Frampton in his early years. Peter Frampton had one of the most successful albums in early record history with “Frampton Comes Alive.” The album sold six million copies in the U.S. alone. Much of the album was covered in the set. Frampton brought his famous talk box to everyone’s delight. The perky set was a perfect vehicle for this seasoned and gifted guitarist. His guitar playing appeared to be effortless.
The special guest appearance of Robert Randolph stole the show with the three songs he played. The first song with Randolph was Freddie King’s “Goin’ Down” and was a thrill to watch to say the least. Randolph plays a righteous pedal steel guitar. It brought a tear to my eyes to see this young man tear it up. No photos were allowed during this portion of the performance. “Born To Be Wild” was a more shared performance between Randolph and Frampton and still an experience to behold. The third song was during the encore with “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
This was a totally satisfying experience as anticipated. Buddy Guy came to show everyone how it is done. B. B. King was there to feel some love. Robert Randolph added pandemonium and he showed what an astute student he has become. Peter Frampton was the guitar circus ringmaster as well as performer. Kudos to all!