By MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER
For 21st Century Media
Following a massive year of touring, including 2013’s inaugural Frampton’s Guitar Circus, Peter Frampton is back on the road this summer.
This time, he is setting out on a three-part jaunt, including select solo dates and a co-headlining run with rock legends The Doobie Brothers. Frampton and The Doobie Brothers will be coming to the region for two stops: Tuesday, June 24 at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby and Tuesday, July 15 at the Sands Bethlehem Events Center.
Franmpton will also be do a solo gig at Harrah’s in Atlantic City, N.J., during the Fourth of July weekend.
The 50-plus shows will wind around the country, stretch well into the fall and will again feature a run of Frampton’s Guitar Circus.
Rock Music Menu caught up with the onetime Humble Pie guitarist while he was prepping for the tour in his adopted hometown of Nashville, Tenn., where he has a studio. Frampton, who had incredible success in the ’70s, led by the multi-platinum “Frampton Comes Alive!,” talked about performing at the Beatles tribute show in January, the elusive artist he wants to play with and more, but first we discussed the reasoning behind another extensive tour, and why it’s in three different parts?
“It’s all different which makes it great,” he said. “This year, I want to hit it hard. We love playing with other acts, especially the Doobies because I’ve been friends with them for so many years, since Humble Pie time. I’ve played with them in all different incarnations. With the original lineup, I’ve played with them with Michael (McDonald), I’ve played with them now, and it’s great. So that’ll be fun to hang with them for a month.”
Frampton’s Guitar Circus, where its namesake gets to jam with fellow axe-slingers, got its start last year with the likes of B.B. King, Robert Cray and The Byrds founder Roger McGuinn, among others. The 2014 edition promises to be just as exciting.
“We’ll have Buddy Guy as our main guest, but we’ll have other guests like Robert Randolph, so we’ll have extra work to learn Robert’s stuff,” Frampton said. “But the end result, which we found, having done the whole tour like that last year, is that it was so gratifying to play with all these different people. It was a circus! It’s sort of like a Crossroads (Guitar Festival) kind of event, but with traveling and all styles of guitar, not just blues.”
The problem with guitar-based tours, even ones that simply have the word “guitar” in them, is that some fans get scared off that it’s either going to be one, long “Freebird” kind of jam at best, or something like the shred-fest G3 with its leaning toward the more technical aspects of the instrument. Frampton assured that his Circus — and all three segments of this summer’s touring — is for the music-lover first and foremost.
“Because it fits in with my show, I’m not the sort of person that will not do what the audience wants,” he said. “I’m very aware of what they would like to hear, and I’m also good at slipping in things that I want to do as well. I feel that with the Guitar Circus, you’ve got these great players, and it brings so much extra to the show. We do mix it up so it does become more of a circus, more of a show, rather than a study in guitar technique.”
Frampton, who later this month will release a mini album inspired by the Cincinnati Ballet titled “Hummingbird in a Box,” said fans tend to enjoy the versatility and adaptability his band is able to incorporate it into the live setting.
“I’m the guy who basically puts the names out there for the (guitarists) I want to choose, and it’s people I really admire and who will fit in with what we do even though it’s a completely different style,” he said. “We as a band are good enough that we can play with anyone basically. It doesn’t matter if it’s funk, fusion — we can handle it.”
Earlier this year, Frampton was called on to handle the all-star 50th anniversary celebration called the “The Night That Changed America,” detailing The Beatles’ arrival in the States in 1964 via “The Ed Sullivan Show.” He performed with a wide range of acts for the show, but how he ended up onstage with all the greats, both contemporary and established notables, was another story altogether.
“I’ve known Ringo (Starr) for some years, and whenever I can, I make myself available to him with the All-Stars, and I’ve played on his records and stuff,” Frampton said. “It’s been a long friendship, and he said, ‘Look, I’ve got this thing coming up with (director) David Lynch, and he’s honoring me at a transcendental meditation for children for charity, so can you come and do a few numbers?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, of course.’”
“As I’m about to leave for L.A., they called back and said, ‘Uhh, OK, now about the Grammys?’ So I think, ‘Alright, OK, that’s another number, fine, no problem.’ And then when I get out there, I find that we’re doing this Beatles show as well. ‘Can you do the Beatles show?’ And by the end, I’ve learned 19 songs (laughs), so it was a blast. Not only playing with Ringo on the David Lynch thing, but now I’m backing up Alicia Keys, John Legend and the one and only Stevie Wonder, and the list goes on, Jeff Lynne, all these wonderful people. Foo Fighting man (Dave Grohl), my friend. It was great, I couldn’t believe it!”
A week later, as the once in a lifetime event began to sink in, it was another high-profile musician who enviously asked about the concert.
“I got to talk to Neil Young about playing it, I met him in Nashville the week after, and we just took up again at another awards show,” Frampton said. “He asked what the best thing was, and I said that playing the guitar part for “We Can Work It Out” with Stevie Wonder was probably the best.”
While on the topic of illustrious musicians, Rock Music Menu asked Frampton if there was anyone on his list or someone from the ages who he wished he could have joined onstage.
“I would’ve loved to have stood with my eyes over the guitar neck of Django Reinhardt,” Frampton said of the innovative Belgian phenom who died six decades ago. “I would have loved to have seen him play.”
And for contemporaries?
“Steve Winwood. I love his passion, his talent and soul. We jammed once, many, many years ago, but we’ve never actually played together on stage. He plays great guitar, piano, organ, but I love his guitar playing.”
To contact music columnist Michael Christopher, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check out his blog at our sister publication www.delcotimes.com