in performance: peter frampton

peter frampton.

peter frampton.

The idea of Peter Frampton performing a predominantly acoustic concert might not seem very novel at first. Lots of veteran rock artists whose careers capitalized on electric environments in arena settings opt for unplugged performances as their careers progress. They offer the chance to play more intimate venues, operate with smaller bands and (usually) smaller budgets and, if nothing else, engage new arrangements for hits played night after night, decade after decade.
Last night’s self-described “raw” performance by Frampton at the Opera House did all of that. The theatre confines and acoustic make-up let the longstanding British rocker design a program that allowed for considerable between-song discussions of the inspirations behind his compositions, like the family heirloom that triggered the idea for the title tune to his 2014 EP for the Cincinnati Ballet (“Hummingbird in a Box”) or an especially moving dedication to his patents that segued into a remembrance of longtime friend David Bowie – specifically, the latter’s invitation for Frampton to join his 1987 world tour, thus redefining him as a guitarist instead of a rock star (“Not Forgotten”). Similarly, there were moments when some of Frampton’s biggest hits were keenly reinvented, as in when he directed the Opera House audience to sing the famed talk-box medley to “Show Me the Way” and turned the set closing “Do You Feel Like We Do” into a sing-a-long that eventually erupted into an intriguing acoustic jam with guitarist/accompanist Gordon Kennedy.
But what was so surprising – and, ultimately, appealing – about the sprawling, 2 ½ performance was how comprehensive the repertoire was. All the expected “Frampton Comes Alive” hits were delivered, as was a show-closing encore of “I’m in You” (which is actually something of a rarity in his full band shows), which sent Frampton to an electric keyboard, marking the concert’s only non-acoustic moment. But with the familiar fare came loads of rarities that covered Frampton’s entire career.
From the early days was a playfully rhythmic revision of Buddy Holly’s “Heartbeat” which he first recorded in 1969 with Humble Pie. Helping out the song on harmony vocals was the guitarist’s son Julian Frampton, who also opened the evening with a half-hour set. Equally unanticipated was an encore medley of “You Had to be There” (penned for the 2000 “Almost Famous” soundtrack) and the title tune to one of Frampton’s most overlooked albums, 1980’s “Breaking All the Rules.” But the real surprise had to be “The Lodger,” a track from Frampton’s 1972 debut album “Wind of Change” that switched out the original version’s brassy instrumental coda for the show’s most dizzying guitar solo.
Finally, there was a hit that seems to have grown old gracefully with Frampton, 1973’s “Lines on My Face.” An inherently sad tune to begin with, last night’s version seemed like a requiem, a tale of loss balanced by almost sagely reflection. It was the evening’s truest example of how this acoustic incarnation of Frampton’s catalog sounded both invigorated and ageless.
dea of Peter Frampton performing a predominantly acoustic concert might not seem very novel at first. Lots of veteran rock artists whose careers capitalized on electric environments in arena settings opt for unplugged performances as their careers progress. They offer the chance to play more intimate venues, operate with smaller bands and (usually) smaller budgets and, if nothing else, engage new arrangements for hits played night after night, decade after decade.
Last night’s self-described “raw” performance by Frampton at the Opera House did all of that. The theatre confines and acoustic make-up let the longstanding British rocker design a program that allowed for considerable between-song discussions of the inspirations behind his compositions, like the family heirloom that triggered the idea for the title tune to his 2014 EP for the Cincinnati Ballet (“Hummingbird in a Box”) or an especially moving dedication to his patents that segued into a remembrance of longtime friend David Bowie – specifically, the latter’s invitation for Frampton to join his 1987 world tour, thus redefining him as a guitarist instead of a rock star (“Not Forgotten”). Similarly, there were moments when some of Frampton’s biggest hits were keenly reinvented, as in when he directed the Opera House audience to sing the famed talk-box medley to “Show Me the Way” and turned the set closing “Do You Feel Like We Do” into a sing-a-long that eventually erupted into an intriguing acoustic jam with guitarist/accompanist Gordon Kennedy.
But what was so surprising – and, ultimately, appealing – about the sprawling, 2 ½ performance was how comprehensive the repertoire was. All the expected “Frampton Comes Alive” hits were delivered, as was a show-closing encore of “I’m in You” (which is actually something of a rarity in his full band shows), which sent Frampton to an electric keyboard, marking the concert’s only non-acoustic moment. But with the familiar fare came loads of rarities that covered Frampton’s entire career.
From the early days was a playfully rhythmic revision of Buddy Holly’s “Heartbeat” which he first recorded in 1969 with Humble Pie. Helping out the song on harmony vocals was the guitarist’s son Julian Frampton, who also opened the evening with a half-hour set. Equally unanticipated was an encore medley of “You Had to be There” (penned for the 2000 “Almost Famous” soundtrack) and the title tune to one of Frampton’s most overlooked albums, 1980’s “Breaking All the Rules.” But the real surprise had to be “The Lodger,” a track from Frampton’s 1972 debut album “Wind of Change” that switched out the original version’s brassy instrumental coda for the show’s most dizzying guitar solo.
Finally, there was a hit that seems to have grown old gracefully with Frampton, 1973’s “Lines on My Face.” An inherently sad tune to begin with, last night’s version seemed like a requiem, a tale of loss balanced by almost sagely reflection. It was the evening’s truest example of how this acoustic incarnation of Frampton’s catalog sounded both invigorated and ageless.
sounded both invigorated and ageless.



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