Itís been three and a half decades since Frampton Comes Alive! ruled the rock and pop charts for 97 weeks, and since that time, the charismatic, golden-maned rock star has lost most of his hair and half of the band members who recorded the album.
But Wednesday night at the Akron Civic Theatre, the 61-year-old Frampton showed a sold-out audience heís still got a sense of humor, his singing voice and a lot of life in his guitar-picking fingers. His nearly three-hour set began with the classic rock radio staple Frampton Comes Alive! and ended with a mix of covers, Framptonís music from this century and some Humble Pie.
He entered to the albumís original intro and a standing ovation, on a stage setup that was simple and unadorned. The band played in front of a large video screen that showed Alive-era photos and included a montage paying tribute to the late original band members John Siomos and Bob Mayo.
Frampton and his current quintet (keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Rob Arthur, guitarist/vocalist Adam Lester, drummer Dan Wojciechowski and Alive bassist Stanley Sheldon) played ďMe Comes Alive,Ē as Frampton referred to the album, in its entirety though in a slightly different sequence. The bouncy Somethingís Happening set the tone for the first set as a smiling, friendly Frampton, dressed casually in a plaid shirt, jeans and sneakers, gave the crowd the first of many blasts of his guitar prowess.
If there can still be any revelations for an audience watching an artist whoís been around for 40-plus years, it was Framptonís soloing. Though he sprang from the British blues-rock era, Frampton emphasizes melody over flashy licks and speedy tricks. Sure, he whipped out some high-speed circular curlicues, as he did during an old-school, standing-ovation-inducing duel with Lester on an extended Iíll Give You Money and the second setís up-tempo instrumental Off the Hook. But Frampton also played some lovely acoustic guitar on Wind of Change and Penny for Your Thoughts.
Unsurprisingly, one of the high points of the opening set was the ďMe Comes AliveĒ album closer Do You Feel Like We Do featuring Frampton hamming it up and cracking jokes through his talk box.
The second set leaned heavily on instrumentals from the Grammy-winning 2007 album Fingerprints and songs from his solid 2011 album Thank You, Mr. Churchill, including one of that albumís best tunes, the ominous and groovy Restraint. Frampton also reached back to his Humble Pie days with a hard-rocking take on Four Day Creep, plus a cover of Soundgardenís Black Hole Sun and a set-closing While My Guitar Gently Weeps, sending the crowd, whose median age was in the upper 40s, home happy.
Frampton may no longer have his curly locks, teen-idol good looks and chart-clogging singles, but all of those things are fleeting. He still delivers where it matters most, on the stage and through his music.
Malcolm X Abram can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3758. Find a full set list on his blog, Sound Check Online, at www.ohiomm.com/blogs/soundcheck.