Concert review: Peter Frampton comes alive again at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater

click to enlarge Frampton comes alive. - Jeff O'Kelley
Jeff O'Kelley
Frampton comes alive.

It's been 35 years since Peter Frampton set the world on fire with a now legendary live concert album. In 1976, no one was more surprised than the young British guitarist himself when his double LP, Frampton Comes Alive!, took off with such force that he was transformed into a mega rock star virtually overnight. Up to that point, he'd paid his dues as part of the UK-based boogie rock band Humble Pie and then released a string of impressive yet unsuccessful solo albums, and his marketability and potential for success were starting to look pretty bleak. The rock gods were on his side, though, and when all the planets aligned and the timimg was just right, the live record caught fire and burned it's way up the charts, taking out any possible obstacle in its path to the top spot. And there it stayed ... for a long, long time. FCA went on to become one of the best selling records of all time; a distinction it still holds today. [Text by Gabe, photo by Jeff.]

And in commemoration of that wild journey and the landmark album itself, Frampton decided to embark on a tour that pays tribute to the record by recreating it in its entirety. The "Frampton Comes Alive 35" tour as it's been billed, is the latest in a long line of gimmick tours whose allure rests in the promise of hearing a classic album (or sometimes two performed back-to-back) in its entirety in a live setting. A stroke of genius, if you ask me, that in Frampton's case, the album he chose to perform and build a tour around is itself a live record. It would have been a more laborious task to try to recreate a tricky studio album, but no need to worry about that here. Frampton and his current band's mission was to take the packed house of 2,180 concertgoers jammed into Ruth Eckerd Hall last Saturday night back in time to recreate the vibe and the mojo of his landmark album. And that he did.

Taking the stage shortly after 8 p.m. and following a handful of hilarious pre-recorded messages and announcements by none other than William Shatner, Frampton and his four-piece band got things going immediately with the album's opening number, "Something's Happening." It was clear from the sound and the enthusiasm coming from the stage that this wasn't going to be a veteran rocker simply relying on his past glories and triumphs; Frampton played with a refreshing sense of enjoyment, as if it were new material he was playing instead of stuff he's been re-hashing for almost 40 years.

With the full run of the album came plenty of highlights, including the singles that were lifted from the album ("Show Me The Way," "Baby I Love Your Way") as well as the 10-plus minute showstopper, "Do You Feel Like We Do," which incorporates the now-famous vox-box that helps transform Frampton's vocals into a robotic, almost duck-like squawk. And the enthusiasm was felt in the crowd too; the mostly 50-and-above aged crowd celebrated in the music and the memories by rising to their feet to relive the excitement of the live concert experience being delivered by one of the brightest stars of their era.

After a soaring take on the entire two-record set, the band took a short break and offered the worked-up crowd a chance to compose themselves with an intermission.

Upon their return, they presented another 90-minute set that was equal in length to the opening set. Drawing more from his recent material, Frampton treated the crowd to a glimpse of where he is now, musically, in comparison to his more familiar opening set. It seemed as though the audience wasn't very familiar with the newer music but they were entranced with the selections, nonetheless. Drawing from his awesome 2010 album, Thank You Mr. Churchill, and his fine 2006 release, Fingerprints, Frampton more than showed off his skills and mastery of his guitar.

The audience was awed by Frampton's instrumental version of Soundgarden's 1994 rock staple, "Black Hole Sun." His guitar alone stole the show during this one and the crowd responded with another rousing standing ovation at its conclusion. They continued to stand for the night's closing number, a heartfelt and passionate version of the Beatles' classic, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."

A three-hour show that showcased some of the biggest and most enduring anthems of the 1970's that still sounded fresh today is what those lucky enough to have scored a ticket to this show were treated to. And although 35 years is a long time, Peter Frampton proved in grand fashion that he is totally willing and able to come alive again and again, night after night.

Set I
Something's Happening
Doobie Wah
Lines On My Face
Show Me The Way
It's a Plain Shame
Wind Of Change
Penny For Your Thoughts
All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)
Baby I Love Your Way
I Wanna Go To The Sun
I'll Give You Money
Do You Feel Like We Do
Shine On (Humble Pie song)
Jumpin' Jack Flash (The Rolling Stones cover)

Set II
Asleep at the Wheel
Boot It Up
Double Nickels
Four Day Creep (Humble Pie Song)
Off The Hook
Black Hole Sun (Soundgarden cover)

While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Beatles cover)