“Everybody in the world has Frampton Comes Alive! If you lived in the suburbs you were issued it. It came in the mail with samples of Tide.” Thus spoke Wayne in Wayne’s World 2, and he wasn’t too far from the truth.
Frampton Comes Alive! — yes, the exclamation point is there — was the smash live double album released by Peter Frampton in 1976 that sold millions of copies and established him as a superstar. In celebration of the album’s 35th anniversary, the Frampton Comes Alive! 35 Tour paid a visit to the Santa Barbara Bowl on Sunday night, where Frampton and band — including Stanley Sheldon on bass as on the original concert/album — played the album in its entirety, and more.
The band was rounded out by Rob Arthur on keyboards, Adam Lester on guitar and Dan Wojciechowski on drums. Original keyboardist Bob Mayo and drummer John Siomos both died in 2004, and were paid visual tribute during the concert.
As for the album, the show kicked off with “Something’s Happening,” which appropriately announced “You know it’s alright, something’s happening.” After Frampton needled the late arrivals with “people in the bar, you’re very welcome to come sit down now,” the show continued with “Doobie Wah,” described by Frampton as “us getting a little funky now.” During this song, images of a younger Frampton were shown at the back of the stage, and although his flowing golden locks are gone, the music sounds pretty much the same, including his great guitar playing and tone.
The sequence of the show matched the original 1975 concert in San Francisco rather than the song order on the album. This meant, for example, that “Lines On My Face,” which Frampton embellished with “you are my family of friends,” came next. This also meant that a couple of “bonus” songs were included — “Just the Time of Year” and “White Sugar.” Unless I missed it, they skipped “Nowhere’s Too Far (For My Baby),” played at the original concert but not included on the original album.
Of course, the classic rock radio staples “Baby I Love Your Way,” “Show Me the Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do” were hugely popular with the crowd, the latter two featuring Frampton’s signature talk box delivery. OK, this may be a gimmick, but it’s a highly effective one.
Frampton introduced “Do You Feel ...” by saying, “We don’t do ‘Freebird’ but we do the other long one.” While the 1970s groove was played, the behind-stage screen showed images of fans holding up copies of Frampton Comes Alive! — on vinyl, of course. When Frampton reached the talk box part, he teased the audience by saying, “I’m not really feeling it tonight,” but the crowd’s roar convinced him otherwise. With the talk box’s waveform projected behind him, he then delivered, including some funny phrases such as, “Can you understand what I’m saying?” and “I can see the YouTube lights on.”
While these were undeniably the show highlights, there are other strong tracks from the album, such as “I Wanna Go to the Sun,” the harder rocking “(I’ll Give You) Money” with a cool guitar jam by Frampton and Lester, and the acoustic delight “Penny For Your Thoughts.”
Frampton has a good spirit about the time that has passed. He joked that the album was made “before most of you were born ... you Californians just look so young,” and that he needed glasses to read the setlist. For “All I Want to Be (Is By Your Side),” he replaced “I don’t care if they cut my hair” with “I don’t care if I’ve lost some hair.” He also skipped the original encore break during the Frampton Comes Alive! portion, saying that, “In the old days we used to go off and do drugs” then “play a little faster for a bit”; here they simply carried on and closed out on the rest of the album.
After a very brief pause, the band returned to play some tracks off Frampton’s latest album, including “Asleep at the Wheel,” “Restraint” and “Vaudeville Nanna and the Banjolele,” the latter “dedicated to my family and how they supported me and helped me find my passion.” There were also pieces from Frampton’s Grammy-award winning album Fingerprints, which he joked was “the album where I stopped singing and just did instrumentals, and they gave me an award.” These were sometimes bluesy, sometimes jazzy, sometimes cerebral, always showcasing Frampton’s expressive guitar chops. There was also a cool reprise of “All I Want to Be (Is By Your Side)”, and a visit to Frampton’s earlier band Humble Pie with the more primal “Four Day Creep.”
The show ended with two well-chosen covers, a mostly instrumental and very cool version of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” that featured a bit of talk box at the end, and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with some nice tasty fretwork from Frampton.
Altogether, Frampton gave us about three hours of music, very generous for someone who has lived longer since Frampton Comes Alive! was released than before. How nice that he is able to celebrate the past with his fans without living in it.
— Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.