Bill Janson WORCESTER TELEGRAM & GAZETTE
Last night, more than 35 years after the release of his breakout live album, Peter Frampton brought his talk box and his virtuosic guitar-playing to The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts with his Frampton Comes Alive! 35th Anniversary Tour.
During a lengthy set, Frampton and his band played through all of Frampton Comes Alive! along with hits from throughout the English rock legend's career. Highlights included: “Baby, I Love Your Way,” “Show Me the Way,” and an extended version of “Do You Feel Like We Do.”
The first thing to realize about a Peter Frampton show is that Frampton takes center stage. The spotlight was, both literally and figuratively, on him through the entire evening, save
for a few short solos from the rest of the band members. This is how it should be. Frampton is the star. He has the charm, the fame. Plus, there are very few people who can do what he does with a guitar.
The problem (and maybe the problem with the concept of the whole anniversary tour), is that the act felt too practiced, too down pat. The anniversary tour started in June, meaning the band has played mostly the same songs for more than half a year straight. That's enough time to grow accustomed to the material — and then some. That's enough time to become bored, and that's just how Frampton's band looked at times throughout the set. Especially early in the night, the band looked like they'd been through it all too many times (as the night wore on, the band seemed to loosen up).
Whether or not the band was half-asleep, Frampton didn't notice. All night he wore a smile that wouldn't fade as he dazzled the audience with quick fingers that danced along his fretboard. A born showman, Frampton fed
the audience familiar jokes about drugs, jam-band Phish, and his balding head. Several times, overly excited members of the crowd shouted out punch lines before they were due, unintentionally ruining the pace and timing of his jokes.
Luckily, banter is not the primary focus when Peter Frampton is on stage. He is a special talent with the guitar in his hands. Everyone's eyes were on him throughout countless guitar solos, so long and intricate they left the entire house hypnotized. There's a fine line
between hypnotized and numbed, though, and Frampton likes to approach it. He shoots off these complex guitar licks with such ease and so often that they begin to lose their impact. At times it feels like the songs were written as vehicles for guitar solos.
Accompanying the music was a slideshow consisting of photos and videos from Frampton's life and career — many from the time that Frampton Comes Alive! was first released. The images depicted a young Frampton — exceedingly handsome with golden curls of hair
hanging past his shoulders. Toward the end of the night the slideshow shifted to depict Frampton from his present tour. Gone was the God-like 25-year-old — replaced by the bald 60-year-old who was currently onstage, enthralling hundreds with his lightning fingers.
A lot can change in 35 years. Judging from the photos, the music and the audience's reaction, it was obvious what had not changed. Frampton's wide, ever-present smile and the way he held his guitar.