Frampton's Guitar Circus

August 24, 2013
Greek Theatre
Los Angeles, CA

Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Kimberly Annette

Ever since he released the instrumental album Fingerprints in 2006, Peter Frampton has firmly reestablished himself as a world-class guitar player. Which isn’t to say he’s ignored the Frampton Comes Alive aspect of his career; in fact, he revisited the entire album for its 35th anniversary during concerts in 2011 and 2012. But now, he’s turned his attention back to the guitar with Frampton’s Guitar Circus, a traveling caravan that includes not only Frampton and his band but a variety of special guests.

For his appearance at the Greek in Los Angeles, Frampton had several ax masters on hand, notably opening sets from Louisiana slide guitarist Sonny Landreth and the one and only B.B. King. Landreth was up first, blowing through a 30-minute, six-song set that showcased his magnificent mastery of slide guitar. It’s unfortunate the Greek was half-empty because Landreth really makes his coffee-brown Fender Stratocaster emblazoned with a big old Mother of Pearl pickguard scream and squelch. No wonder Eric Clapton always invites him out to his annual Crossroad Guitar Festival.

After a quick change-over, B,B. King’s eight-piece band came on for an introduction, building anticipation for their legendary boss. Each player took a solo before the King of the Blues emerged, throwing out guitar picks and making his way to his seat. After a few cracks and more introductions, he was handed his beloved black Gibson Lucille guitar and dedicated his first song, “I Need You,” to “all the lovers” in the audience.

I’d heard King talks more than plays, and tonight was no exception. When he did play, however, that unmistakable tone resonated over the hillside, making you realize you were in the presence of greatness. He commented on all the beautiful ladies in the audience and asked all of them to kiss their neighbor as he playfully cradled Lucille and sang through “You Are My Sunshine.”

Frampton came up and joined King for “The Thrill Is Gone.” The guitarist ripped through the solo as King munched on stale popcorn. Many of the audience members came to the front of the stage, shaking King’s hand, exchanging various trinkets for guitar picks, including a flask of whiskey. He waved his final good-byes, put his coat and hat on, and slowly ambled off stage to the cheers of the guitar-loving audience.

At 9:20, the lights lowered as Frampton and his band took their places amidst the whimsical sounds of the Beatles’ “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite.” Without so much as a “hello,” they launched into a blazing “Magic Moon (Da Da Da Da Da!)” from Frampton’s third studio album, 1974’s Somethin's Happening. They followed up with "Doobie Wah," another one from the same album that got more exposure when it showed up on Frampton Comes Alive. This, of course, led to two more that landed on the montser-selling live album: “Lines On My Face” and “Show Me The Way.” This as about as lighthearted as it would get as the concert, at this point, took an unexpected turn.

The first of two special guest guitarists Frampton welcomed to the Greek stage was Stone Temple Pilots’ Dean DeLeo. Frampton’s son Julian and his father traded verses on two STP songs, “Interstate Love Song’ and “Vaseline,” and the circus was in full flight. With STP’s future in limbo, it's to say if we'll be seeing more or less of DeLeo, who chugged through the songs with all the muscle and vigor of a proud owner.

A wild and randy “(I’ll Give You) Money,” another early one from Frampton’s self-titled fourth album that found new life on Frampton Comes Alive, was worth every penny as he and his other guitarist Adam Lester exchanged heavy-duty solos. Then it got really bizarre as Frampton introduced his next guest as someone he had know n for many years: Police guitarist Andy Summer. They began with “Message In A Bottle,” where Summers played a riveting lead (something he didn’t do enough with the Police) and Lester handled the vocal. Something tells me we might be hearing more from Adam Lester. A saucy instrumental followed, and Summers stepped up his game for one of the night’s fieriest exhibitions.

“When we came up with the idea of the Guitar Circus, I never thought we'd do this fantastic,” Frampton announced as he strapped on his acoustic for “Baby I Love Your Way.” Indeed, the tour has featured a number of guests along the way, including the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn and the Eagles’ Don Felder. But again, it’s Frampton’s guitar playing that really deserves the attention. His instrumental take on Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” from Fingerprints, truly the showed the measure of his versatility.

The epic “Do You Feel Like We Do” whipped up the masses and highlighted longtime bassist Stanley Sheldon’s superb touch. By the end of the song, Frampton and his talk-box were soaking with energy. Dean DeLeo and Andy Summers returned for the encore, joining in on a dramatic performance of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” After a full night of Frampton’s Guitar Circus and even without a slice of Humble Pie, there wasn’t a dry eye (or fret) left in the house.

 

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