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Peter Frampton comes alive once again at Penn's Peak

  • JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWS Peter Frampton performs for the Penn's Peak audience Tuesday night.
    JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWS Peter Frampton performs for the Penn's Peak audience Tuesday night.
Published July 28. 2010 05:00PM

It was an exuberant Peter Frampton who took to the Penn's Peak stage Tuesday night.

Wearing a black Martin Guitars T-shirt and jeans, Frampton was loose and comfortable, perpetually with a smile as he served up a dose of the best he has to offer.

Perhaps his disposition was influenced by the release of his latest album, Thank You Mr. Churchill, which, he noted as he displayed it, is available on vinyl, with a gatefold cover - just like a certain other record of his, his tour de force, mega-selling Frampton Comes Alive! double live album, one of the cornerstone LPs of the 1970s.

That 1976 double live album made him a star, but as his record sales gravitated toward more human levels since then, Frampton has focused on what got him going in the beginning, which is his nimble guitar playing. In fact, he won his first and only Grammy Award in 2006 for the instrumental album Fingerprints.

Maybe he was also thrilled just to be back in action, particularly after his band's equipment was damaged during the flooding in Nashville, where Frampton and company rehearsed for this tour.

Backed by a four piece band that included longtime bassist John Regan, who has played with him for 31 years, as well as guitarist Adam Lester, keyboard player Rob Arthur and drummer Dan Wojciechowski, Frampton, now 60, gave a lively performance that kept his admirers enthralled and energized for two hours plus.

Thank You Mr. Churchill features some of Frampton's most introspective work, and he performed three songs from the new disc.

"Restraint", about the Wall Street financial meltdown, bristled as Lester and Arthur played acoustic guitars behind Frampton's electric, stinging lead; he introduced the song as being about "greedy pigs". "I Want It Back" is a straight forward rocker, and Frampton kicked off his encore with it.

The third new tune was a personal one. "Vaudeville Nanna and the Banjolele" tells the story of how Frampton first started playing guitar during his childhood in England. "Those were the best days of my life," he sang.

Three numbers from Fingerprints were also showcased: the rocking "Boot It Up", "Double Nickels" (which had a bit of a twang to it), and best of all, Frampton's stunning cover of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun", with some talkbox work on the chorus, which sent chills up and down the spine.

The rest of the set was culled from the Comes Alive! era, but Frampton made the material sound fresh once again, not dated. The audience's reaction was hardly reserved, as it rose from its collective seat a number of times to roar its approval.

After the ebb and flow of rock'n'roll fame, the observations of "Lines on My Face" and "All I Want to Be (is By Your Side)" have been well earned since the days when Frampton's then flowing locks graced the covers of magazines.

The hits "Show Me The Way" and "Baby, I Love Your Way", the latter with Frampton on acoustic guitar, continue to be favorites, thanks to their continuous run on pop and classic rock radio, but he mined that era even deeper.

"It's a Plain Shame", "I Wanna Go to the Sun" (with a piano intro and spacey guitar solo) and "(I'll Give You) Money", the latter featuring a lengthy six-string jam between Frampton and Lester on its coda, were highlights that demonstrated what all the excitement was about in the first place.

Frampton's nightly nod to the audience, "Do You Feel Like We Do", remains a crowd pleaser as well, between his talk box chatter (he remarked about the view from The Peak at one point) and a good-hearted duel between Frampton's fretwork and Arthur on keyboards, and it got an extended workout.

For his finale, Frampton stood on stage, cranking out riffs until he and the band broke into a reverent cover of The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", which he recorded on his Now album a number of years back.

"If you keep coming, I'll keep playing," Frampton told the Peak crowd. Here's hoping he keeps his promise; if not, it would indeed be a plain shame.

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