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Concert Reviews:
Peter Frampton comes "Alive" again at DTE

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Saturday, July 9, 2011

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- As Peter Frampton celebrated the 35th anniversary of his landmark "Frampton Comes Alive" album Friday night (July 8) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, the differences were both subtle -- Stanley Sheldon playing a different model of fretless bass, for instance -- and substantial. Like Frampton having a lot less hair than he did back in 1976.

But what hadn't changed was the iconic potency of the collection, which vaulted Frampton to pop superstar status and, on Friday, took the boomer-dominated 10,000-plus at DTE cheerfully back to the days of flair trousers, mullets, vinyl and 8-track. And even though Frampton's three-hour performance brought things up to date in his career since, it was a night for unabashed and unapologetic nostalgia, whether swooning to "Baby I Love Your Way" or cheering the trademark talk box solos of "Show Me the Way" and "Do You Feel Like We Do."

Frampton's recitation of "Comes Alive" -- in its entirety, in the sequence of the original concert rather than the edited version that became the album -- was loving and light-hearted. Though he added a different vocal phrasing here and a fresh guitar lick there, it was mostly a faithful recreation that reminded us there was more to the album than the hits, giving a bit of spotlight to tracks such as "It's a Plan Shame," "I Wanna Go to the Sun," the muscular "(I'll Give You) Money" and "Shine On" from Frampton's days in the band Humble Pie.

Historical photos and footage accompanied the performance, and Frampton turned the solo acoustic "Winds of Change" into a tribute to Bob Mayo and John Siomos, the "Comes Alive" band members who both died in 2004. He also noted changes in the song order, which included three songs left off the original album, and poked fun at seat-shuffling late arrivals, changing the lyric of "All I Want to Be (Is By Your Side)" to "I don't care if they need more chairs here." And just before "Do You Feel Like We Do" -- restored on Friday to the 16-minute length of the album, he told a fan seated Row A center that a special 1976 "trinket" was taped under her seat; it turned out to be a Twinkie, "as fresh today as it was in 1976!"

The "Frampton Comes Alive" material, of course, did sound just as fresh today, a mark not just of the pop culture phenomenon it became but also of Frampton's under-appreciated songwriting skills. It was his evolved playing skills, meanwhile, that were the focus of the show's second half, a 70-minute set that focused on material from his most recent albums -- the 2006 Grammy Award-winning instrumental set "Fingertips" and last year's "Thank You Mr. Churchill" -- along with a full band version of "All I Wanna Be (Is By Your Side)" and a romp through Humble Pie's "Four Day Creep."

The tenor of that portion of the show was, not surprisingly, quite different -- more chilled out and performance oriented, where the "Frampton Comes Alive" section was energetic and participatory. Frampton may be doing his more recent material a disservice by positioning after "Comes Alive;" there was a discernible lack of the same kind of electricity, as folks knew they'd already heard what they really came for. And there were a substantial number who did not even return for the second part of the concert -- a shame since they missed some of Frampton and his four-piece band's best playing of the night, including his mostly instrumental interpretation of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" and an encore rendition of the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."

"Frampton Comes Alive" probably won't compete in the same way -- at least on stage -- in the near future. But Frampton did says that "we hope to be back here for the 50th anniversary -- on our scooters."

And he can probably rest assured many of Friday's fans will be back to cheer the talk box solos once again.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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