Peter Frampton brought his “Comes Alive 35” tour to Winnipeg’s Pantages Playhouse Theatre Wednesday night (9/28/11).
Gone are most of the rock star trappings and curly locks. But the 61-year old rocker maintains his youthful smile, vitality, as well as the voice and guitar chops that made him one of the biggest selling stars of the mid-70s.
Aside from a light show and jumbotron that flashed nostalgic collages of Frampton back in the day, and 60’s pyschedelia throughout the evening, the veteran musican opted for a stripped down stage, keeping the attention focused on the music generated by himself and his crack 4-piece backing band.
Looking still youthful, attired in jacket, black pants, blue t-shirt and scarf, the former Herd guitarist kicked the night off with the center piece of the current tour, his 1976 multi-platinum selling double album, “Frampton Comes Alive” in it’s entirety.
Following the opening track, “Something’s Happening,” Frampton yelled “Hello Winnipeg,” stripped off his jacket and scarf, and launched into the album’s 2nd track “Doobie Wah.”
Frampton seemed to enjoy twisting the tail of the more gregarious members of the audience. At one point, a fan yelled “Frampton’s back!” The quick-witted performer duly turned around, showing his back and replied, “There’s my back.”
When a female member screamed, “Take off your t-shirt!” the guitarist responded, “I told you wait for me in the trunk of the car until after the show.”
Next up, came the top 10 single, “Show Me the Way,” featuring Frampton’s signature talk box guitar effect. Although the former superstar has probably done many of these songs thousands of times, at no point did he give the impression that he and the band were simply going through the motions.
There were plenty of hot guitar solos for fans that remember Frampton from his pre-pop star days, when he reigned as a young guitar god with England’s Humble Pie. Often, the bandmembers would slightly vary solos and arrangments, which kept the songs fresh for both the band and the audience.
Highlights of the 1st set include the poignant “Lines on My Face,” “I Wanna Go To The Sun,” “Nowhere’s Too Far,” “I’ll Give You (Money),” which featured some fine solo work by supporting guitarist Adam Lester, and Frampton’s arena anthem, “Do You Feel Like I Do?” featuring the return of the talk box, and some excellent cross soloing from Frampton and keyboard/guitarist Rob Arthur. A huge ovation ensued following this song, and the lads could likely have called it a night right there, and sent everyone home with smiles on their faces.
However, as Frampton comically explained, “This was part of the show when the band went backstage and did drugs, they came back and played the last 2 songs twice as fast – at least for a while.” “We don’t do drugs anymore, except the pharmaceutical variety for my back, but now my teeth don’t work.”
“Shine On,” and a cover of The Stones “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” closed out the set and the band returned after a 20 minute break.
The 2nd set primarily featured an inspired performance of material from his 2010 album, Thank You Mr. Churchill, along with a solid cover of Humble Pie’s “Four Day Creep” which gave Lester and Arthur a chance to do their best Steve Marriot vocal impersonations, a cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” with Frampton back on talk box, and for the encore, an emotional rendering of the late George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
Clocking at 3 hours, Frampton delivered plenty of musical bang for the buck, and served notice, particularly in the 2nd set, though fans may love him for the past hits, that he’s still a vital musical force to be reckoned with here in the 21st century.