June 23, 2011
The Filene Center at Wolf Trap
Vienna, VA USA
Review by Craig Hunter Ross
Photos by Craig Hunter Ross
"Everybody in the world has Frampton Comes Alive! If you lived in the suburbs you were issued it." - Wayne Campbell from the movie Wayne's World 2
For those old enough to remember, reflections upon the year that was 1976 are rich with memories of moments that later significantly contributed to the fabric of modern American history and culture. Not the least of these was the release of a double live album that would debut on the US charts at 191, before quickly topping those charts for weeks; later become one of the best selling live albums of all time.
Fast forward to the year 2011 and the legendary Peter Frampton is on tour celebrating the 35th anniversary marking the release of that album, "Frampton Comes Alive!" with a stop in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC.
The audience within The Filene Center at Wolf Trap is a patchwork quilt that knows not societal boundaries. The near capacity crowd is made up of all races and ages. Young couples and some more "senior" sweethearts are interspersed throughout the numerous families present with parents obviously eager to share the moment, reminisce and make new musical memories with their own children.
The evening's agenda calls for the band to play "Frampton Comes Alive!" in its entirety, but an early 7:30 pm start against a mandatory 11:00pm curfew suggests that the fans are in for a lot more.
The band takes the stage promptly at 7:30pm. Peter Frampton serves as the evening's band leader, supported by Rob Arthur (keys, guitar, and vocals), Dan Wojciechowski (drums), Adam Lester (guitar), and from the original 1976 recording, Stanley Shelton (bass).
The stage is a simple layout of essential gear (including the famous talkbox), devoid of props or additional top staging. A large LED screen cycles through era appropriate images celebrating the career of one of rock's all time greats, as well as song specific visual effects. Frampton exclaims that "It's good to be in Vienna", which is a much welcomed greeting to long time residents and concert goers who more often than not are simply referred to as "DC".
Following the conclusion of the first 5 songs (or what would roughly be side 1 of the original recording plus a song), the band departs leaving Mr. Frampton center stage for an acoustic set covering the next four numbers, which included an angelic version of "Penny for your Thoughts", before they all returned for the ever popular "Baby I Love Your Way".
The sun began to set at the rear of the amphitheater as Frampton tore into "I wanna go to the Sun" quickly followed by "Nowhere's too far" and "(I'll Give You) Money", with solos so intense some may have gotten blisters on their fingers playing air guitar or just watching!
The crowd was on their feet for all 15 minutes of "Do you Feel Like We Do", which included big screen clips from Frampton's appearance on The Simpsons and a real-time talkbox waveform projection. "Shine On", a nod to time spent with the group Humble Pie, "White Sugar" and a cover of The Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" brought an end to the first half of the show.
After a 20 minute intermission (which included a clip from an appearance on Family Guy, Frampton played numerous pieces from his works "Fingerprints" and "Thank you Mr. Churchill". The hard rocking "Four Day Creep" gave everyone one last tast of Humble Pie before "Off the Hook" and the conclusion of the show with a cover of the Soundgarden hit "Black Hole Sun" but with the unique Frampton talkbox spin. Frampton returned to the stage for an encore of the George Harrison classic rock radio staple "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".
It was evident that Peter Frampton is enjoying this tour and especially enjoyed this performance. The smile rarely left his face and the stage was illuminated with the smiles of those watching in return. One departing fan was overheard saying to a friend "Having never purchased FCA in the 70s, I regret the years I missed not hearing more than the traditional radio hits. I'm getting on iTunes first thing when I get home".
If only more musicians performed with the sheer joy and fun of Peter Frampton (for 3 hours no less)...perhaps there would be more 35th anniversary celebrations to enjoy. Rock on Peter...We do feel like you do.
* Donald Gehl contributed to this review.