Concert review: Peter Frampton and Yes at Ruth Eckerd Hall

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Luckily, from my constant visits to PeterFrampton.com and the Frampton updates I receive from his Facebook page, I was hip to the fact that Peter would be taking the stage at 7:30pm sharp. And, as promised, he did just that. As the lights dimmed approaching showtime, Frampton and his stellar band took the stage and assumed their positions. In the true meaning of the term "co-headlining," Frampton occupied the stage for the next hour and 45 minutes, and never lost command of the crowd. Mixing in current material with the mega-hits that dominated the airwaves at the height of the Frampton frenzy proved [image-1]successful and seamless. While the unveiling of new material by a veteran act usually signals a bathroom break or a beer run for those in attendance, Frampton's charisma and presence were enough to thwart that ritual and maintain the crowd's interest throughout. "Restraint," one of the many standout cuts from Peter's brand new release, Thank You Mr. Churchill, proved the depth and advancement of Frampton's catalog and sounded right at home sandwiched between concert staples "Lines On My Face" and "All I Wanna Be (Is By Your Side)."  Remarkably, the loudest and most fervent reaction followed Frampton's unique, mostly instrumental rendition of Soundgarden's 1994 hit "Black Hole Sun." That's not to say that "Show Me The Way," "Baby, I Love Your Way" and the tour de force, "Do You Feel Like We Do," didn't send the crowd into hysterics: those selections still sounded fresh and timely despite the millions of radio plays they've each received over the last four decades.


Sure, his trademark blond locks are gone and he sports a close-cropped silver coif. He now opts for simple button-up shirts and faded jeans over satin pants and kimonos, and he has abandoned his old habits in favor of a cleaner, more sober lifestyle. The hype that surrounded him at his commercial peak nearly sabotaged his career and backfired on him. But Peter Frampton [image-2]hasn't lost an iota of what's endeared him to so many for so long. He seems more relaxed these days and his onstage exuberance is refreshing. Frampton's come a long way and seems unfazed by his roller-coaster ride of a career. And judging from the fiery guitar work he dazzled the crowd with, he certainly hasn't lost his vastly underrated ability to dominate a Gibson Les Paul and squeeze sparks out of it. Unbelievable as it may sound, Peter Frampton seems to be entering into another chapter of his long, colorful career. And as long as he continues to create worthy new music, wow crowds and enjoy himself, he'll always have an enthusiastic crowd cheering him on.


Speaking of enthusiastic crowds, Yes fans have got to be some of the most loyal and dedicated of them all. As the veteran act took the stage at 9:40 p.m., the crowd rose to their feet and welcomed their much beloved progressive rock heroes as the sounds of  Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite" blared from the speakers.


Although longtime lead singer Jon Anderson is not part of the current incarnation of Yes, those in attendance didn't seem to care. Probably largely due to the fact that they were treated to a reasonable alternative. Current lead vocalist Benoit David (pictured above right, not to be confused with Jazz pianist David Benoit) is vocally a dead ringer for Anderson; the unique high-pitched vocal and range that has distinguished Yes from their contemporaries for decades is once again part of their [image-3]unique sound (Anderson has developed problems with his health and has decided to pursue other projects rather than remaining with Yes).


Crowd pleasers "And You And I," "Roundabout" and the 1983 chart-topper, "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" sounded flawless. Guitar wizard/mad scientist Steve Howe [pictured left] received the loudest and heartiest response as he dazzled with his guitar prowess but his applause was dwarfed by the reaction to the seldom performed "Perpetual Change" (from 1971's The Yes Album).


You'd be hard-pressed to find another double-bill that boasts as many hits and radio staples from the last forty years as this one. It just goes to show that rock n' roll will never die; it might age and mature but for some, it will always be in the blood.


More pics by Jeff


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At a time of struggle for the music industry, when co-headlining tours and package shows are borne out of necessity, this particular bill had to have a lot of people drooling with anticipation. Consider the drawing power each of these two acts possessed during their individual existences: Peter Frampton [pictured below] could have sold out any arena (or stadium, for that matter) during the mid-1970's. His career-making live album, Frampton Comes Alive, broke sales records upon it's release in 1976  and endeared the young, wavy-haired guitarist to countless concertgoers as Frampton-mania broke out around the globe.  Yes holds the dubious distinction of being one of the only (if not the only) prog-rock band whose success and record sales enabled them to also draw tens of thousands of fans to arenas and stadiums worldwide. So, imagine the potential of these two forces touring jointly... [All photos by Jeff O'Kelley.]

Although the crowd scene wasn't what it might have looked like 35 years ago, the enthusiasm was certainly still present. Gone are the long hair, the billowing smokestacks and the crunch of an over-eager general admission mob. Instead, Clearwater's stunning Ruth Eckerd Hall featured a much more orderly scene. A look around the room revealed some receding hairlines, lots of chugging from water bottles, and a greater desire to sink into the hall's plush seats instead of remaining upright. Nonetheless, the capacity crowd of 2,180 arrived with the intention of enjoying these two monster acts together on the same bill. And they let their appreciation be known: in what had to be the loudest and most boisterous crowd response I've ever heard at Ruth Eckerd, the mostly 45-plus-aged crowd proved that they may be older, but they still love a good rock show. And that's just what they were treated to.

About The Author

Gabe Echazabal

I was born on a Sunday Morning.I soon received The Gift of loving music.Through music, I Found A Reason for living.It was when I discovered rock and roll that I Was Beginning To See The Light.Because through music, I'm Set Free.It's always helped me keep my Head Held High.When I started dancing to that fine, fine...
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