Having forever solidified his rock ‘n’ roll celebrity status with the release of “Frampton Comes Alive!” 40 years ago this past summer, one might suspect Peter Frampton would kick back a bit as a pop elder. But at age 66, the veteran guitarist and songwriter isn’t about to shut himself away and let his legacy speak for him.
Just look at the recordings he has released in the last decade alone. In 2006 came “Fingerprints,” an all-instrumental album that earned Frampton a Grammy. A platter of new original songs, “Thank You, Mr. Churchill,” followed in 2010. Then he co-produced a 2013 four-disc expansion of “Rockin’ the Fillmore,” Frampton’s landmark live album with Humble Pie, the band that directly prefaced his solo career. A collaboration with the Cincinnati Ballet resulted in 2014’s “Hummingbird in Box.” That brings us to his newest adventure, “Acoustic Classics,” the aptly named 2016 set of predominantly solo reworkings of hits (“Show Me the Way,” “Do You Feel Like I Do”) and assorted career gems (“Fig Tree Bay,” “Wind of Change”).
“My M.O., in general, is I want to play something tomorrow that I can’t play today,” said Frampton, who concludes his third “Raw – An Acoustic Tour” on Saturday at the Opera House. “I want to write something that has a structure, lyrically or musically, that I haven’t done before.”
An initial idea proposed to Frampton as a recording project was to simply re-cut his past hits for a new album, thus allowing him to own the rights to those versions of his work. Disinterested in simply repeating himself, the idea emerged to revisit some of his music in an acoustic setting and then offer them in a more intimate performance environment that allows him to share stories of the inspirations behind his compositions. But being essentially a child of rock ‘n’ roll, Frampton also found such a prospect a little, well, frightening.
“My management remarked that I’ve never done an all acoustic record and said, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘Well, there’s a reason for that. I’m scared to death of it.’
“Well, maybe not scared to death. But I was apprehensive. What became so enjoyable about playing acoustic, however, was how different the performances were. We’re playing in these theatres, anywhere from 900 to 1,600 seat places. It’s like being in a large living room. Say you came over for coffee one day and we were just talking and I said, ‘Hey, you want to hear this new song I wrote last night?’ Well, that’s the kind of performance I want to give everybody.
“So when I first started recording ‘Acoustic Classics,’ I thought, ‘Oh, this is just going to take a couple of days. Well, no. I did the first couple and went into the control room and listened. It sounded like me without the band, obviously, but it was like I was performing with the band in my head. So I want to go back to that moment, reverse engineer my songs, and return to one acoustic guitar and one voice. I even lowered the key just a semi-tone here and there so I don’t have to be so forceful, so the music can be much more intimate. I’m not going to be screaming the songs. I’m going to be singing them just as if I was on my own and it was a brand new song.”
Frampton won’t entirely go it alone on Saturday. Guitarist Gordon Kennedy will accompany him with son Julian Frampton, the show’s opening act, sitting in during some of the set.
“You know, I’m playing guitar more now than I was in my teens. It’s a passion that re-energizes itself. Playing guitar is the most important thing to me apart from my family.
“I was very young when I started it. It was something I was using to just hide away and do my thing. I was very shy when I was young, so that was the thing that got me through the night, as it were. And guess what? It still does.”
Peter Frampton performs at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St. Tickets: $95.50. Call 859-745-3000, 859-233-3535 or go to ticketmaster.com.