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PETER FRAMPTON AT THE STATE THEATER
8 p.m., Fri., 30 Sept. 2011, $45-$120 (www.ticketmaster.com), on Hennepin Av. at 8th St., downtown Mpls., parking at ramps on 10th-Hennepin and the Target Center ramp.
Peter Frampton is very likely the first performer touring and performing an old live album in its entirety. “Frampton Comes Alive” remains his best-selling album, having sold over 6 million copies. Recorded in ’75, mostly at the Winterland in San Francisco, it was the biggest selling live album then and remains the 4th best of all time. It is a solid album containing three singles. During that concert tour, Frampton became best known for his use of the ‘Talkbox’, an electronic device that attaches to his electric guitar through the speakers. When in use, it modifies the sound of the guitar into a speaking instrument of sorts. This is accomplished by lip-synching into the mouth-piece. The shape of the mouth and tongue determine the range of sound (or speaking) the guitar does.
Frampton has become synonymous with the Talkbox. He first encountered the device as played by Pete Drake who used it on a pedal steel guitar while backing George Harrison during sessions for “All Things Must Pass”. Frampton, who sat in on those sessions, received one as a Christmas present from another friend, Bob Heil, in ’74. It is widely believed that his use of it on the tour that was captured on “Comes Alive” was the first time he used it. Some hard-core fans claim Frampton used it much earlier during his brief stint with Humble Pie (’69-’71). This cannot be completely substantiated although he did not use it when Humble Pie played in Mpls. in ’71. (Admittedly, that was a blurry night and the main attraction was hearing Steve Marriott sing.)
Frampton’s use of the Talkbox inspired other notable guitarists to utilize the device. The list is long and includes Steppenwolf, Iron Butterfly, Ten Years After, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, Scorpions, Queen, Guns and Roses, Bon Jovi and Jeff Beck. None of these guitarists use it as frequently as Frampton but the songs featuring it remain staples of their setlists, particularly Bon Jovi’s guitarist, Richie Sambora.
The dark cloud of all this is that Frampton’s other solo albums have rarely fared well on the charts. There are high points on all of them but, for the most part, they’re all very forgettable. “Comes Alive” was almost a fluke in that sense. After its release, Frampton made the nearly career-killing mistake of accepting a role in Robert Stigwood’s horrifyingly horrible film “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, starring with the BeeGees. The film was ridiculously bad with the lamest dialogue ever written for film and really pitiful covers of Beatle songs. Ironically enough, the highest point of Frampton’s later career was his tour with the best of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band. With Jack Bruce of Cream and Gary Brooker of Procol Harum, that band was the epitome of what an all-star band should be.
Still, Frampton is a talented guitarist and a very likable showman. His music cannot be discarded as insignificant and the people who attend this show will enjoy the heck out of it. The State Theater is as acoustically sound (so to speak) as any venue in the Twin Cities.
As always, it’s all about the music…