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Shepherd's Bush Empire, London 5 March 2011
Sadly, Peter Frampton 'comes alive' all too rarely in his UK homeland,
this being by my reckoning his first tour since 2004. However he made up
for lost time with a marathon 2 and ¾ hour set.
These days the curly locks made famous by the iconic album sleeve are
long gone and, balding and grey, he looks more like Iain Duncan Smith.
the start, as he opened with a rather sedate instrumental Off the Hook,
It's a Plain Shame and Signed Sealed Delivered I'm Yours, it seemed the
self-styled Quiet Man of British politics was also manning the sound
desk, but luckily the music did get louder and, surprisingly early in
the set, his biggest hit Show Me the Way, complete with trademark
talkbox, and a slightly different arrangement, got a few people singing
Despite all his years based in the USA, he is very much the English
gentleman, and I always enjoy his self-deprecating wit between songs.
material from the new album Thank You Mr Churchill, he joked that he was
nervous releasing it as the Grammy for his previous instrumental album
Fingerprints may have been awarded for him not singing.
got a generous airing, but I felt he failed to do the new one justice by
mainly playing the slower, more downbeat tracks from it.
One of them,
though, the autobiographical Vaudeville Nana and the Banjolele, saw him
tease the crowd in typical fashion by opening with a snatch of My Old
Man's a Dustman.
Actually, his singing is more than serviceable and its rather lived in,
weary feel grows with age, but as usual it was his guitar work that
stood out, fluent, controlled and as easy on the ear as always and
matched by an excellent new band including second guitarist Adam Lester
and keyboard player and occasional guitarist Rob Arthur. I say new, but
the line up also boasted Stanley Sheldon, the bassist from the Comes
The set did drag at times during the first hour and a half, until the
likes of I Wanna Go To The Sun and the Humble Pie oldie Shine On, and
newie Asleep at the Wheel raised the tempo a few notches.
One of the
highlights was a superb instrumental treatment of Soundgarden's Black
Hole Sun, although when he sang 'Black Hole Sun' into the talkbox I
could not hold back the thought I was hearing Professor Stephen W.
Baby I Love Your Way had ladies of a certain age singing and dancing,
l'll Give You Money in contrast turned into a brilliant jam with guitar
and keyboard battling against each other, and of course nothing other
than Do You Feel Like We Do ended the set, drawn out with Peter messing
about with his talkbox, and clocking in at a 'mere' 17 minutes.
He rocked out for the first encore with Humble Pie's I Don't Need No
Doctor, only for momentum to be lost when the song was stretched out to
excess, but a second encore of While My Guitar Gently Weeps showed off
his immaculate guitar technique to perfection.
In 25 plus years of gig going I can only recall a few acts (Rory
Gallagher, Brice Springsteen and Bon Jovi) playing a set of such a
to the sexagenarian for giving such value and the good news is that this
underrated master of his craft is coming back later in 2011 to celebrate
the 35th anniversary of Frampton Comes Alive.
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