If Sept. 30th’s concert at Minneapolis’s State Theatre is any indication, ’70s superstar Peter Frampton’s still got it. He had it when he played at the same venue as part of the 1997 incarnation of Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band. Swinging through the Twin Cities on his Frampton Comes Alive! 35 Tour, the historic rock idol clearly hasn’t been sitting around gathering dust all these years and, indeed, plays better than ever before—cleaner, subtler and with startling imagination. He scarcely played a predictable note all night and did it with passion.
Back when his career-defining album hit LP (weren’t no CDs in them days, barely even cassettes), Frampton Comes Alive! charted an incredible 97 weeks. After coasting on that success, he summarily subsided into has-been oblivion, eventually returning with 2006’s Grammy-award winning instrumental album Fingerprints. Last year, he released Thank You Mr. Churchill and, if his re-emergence can’t be called a huge comeback, Peter Frampton—moving discs, drawing howling crowds—certainly is doing one hell of a good job of hanging on.
Frampton dedicated the first half of his three-hour set to excellently performing the Frampton Comes Alive! album, delighting a not-quite sold out crowd to delirium. A nice touch was his humorously self-deprecating banter between numbers. An annoyance was his encouraging sing-alongs for “Baby, I Love Your Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do”—over-a-thousand voices, only about 3 of them on key, mangling a melody you’d much rather hear the star sing. The other shortcoming was his half-assed vocal on what otherwise would’ve been a fine cover of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”
You had to wonder what he was going to follow with after the intermission. It turned out to be a killer finish, including beautiful instrumentals, a visitation of material from his old band Humble Pie’s “Four Day Creep.” He also did “Shine On” in the first half and a gorgeous encore, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” that gave up absolutely nothing to Eric Clapton’s eternally lauded guitar solo on The Beatles (that’s the actual title of the famous The White Album). Frampton is never going to make Jeff Beck nervous, but he inarguably acquits himself as a master musician.
The screen behind Frampton and his band at the beginning of the show was a little odd, which displayed images from his heyday. It gave the impression this was principally going to be a night of the rock star reliving his baby-faced, golden-locked glory. Glancing back and forth from the montage to the spry old geezer up on-stage after awhile, well, it just got weird. After about a half-hour, though, the backdrop changed to a vintage, acid-worthy light show, making it a lot easier to just sit there and enjoy Peter Frampton playing his ass off. Which he did all the way up until he sent everyone home with an experience to well remember him by.
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Photo courtesy Peter Frampton