Road To Recovery Benefit @ John Varvatos Store

NEW YORK, NY—Road To Recovery, which was founded in ‘98 by two former drug addicts, Gene Bowen and Jack Bookbinder, is an organization that is dedicated to helping young people battle drug and alcohol addiction and other adversities. They feature entertainment industry performers that share in these crises to put on performances from which the profits go toward the organization. This year the headliners were Peter Frampton and comedian and actor Denis Leary.

In the context of the very small setting, it was a bit strange to know that Frampton, who’s been sober for seven years according to his own statement from the stage, was a former stadium headliner in the latter ‘70s and one of the biggest acts in rock. His time in the spotlight was relatively brief, unfortunately. As I was being rather squashed in the audience at the John Varvatos store, the space that the club CBGB’s was in which holds only a couple of hundred people, I was thinking that it was a much different experience than one would have had in, for example, the huge Madison Square Garden when Frampton could sell it out once upon a time. This Brit that was called “The Face Of ‘68” by the UK press when he was, at 18, in his first band The Herd, hasn’t been in the big time arena rock world for nearly 30 years. He was unceremoniously dropped by the record company that he sold millions of records for, A&M, in ‘82. His Frampton Comes Alive record, released in ‘76, was the biggest selling live album up until that point, and has thus far sold 16 million copies worldwide. It’s what made him a star and has been the plateau that he’s never been able reach since. A monster smash like this is a double-edged sword for many an artist or band, because the expectations are so high from everyone concerned, as are the pressures. Frampton has said that for a few years after that album, he was writing songs that were what he hoped the fans and record company wanted to hear rather than writing what came naturally. He’s said that he second guessed himself often, and that this wasn’t at all what he should have been doing.

At 59, Frampton looks a far cry from how he did in his prime, but who wouldn’t after three-and-half decades? His playing was entirely solid and sounded as it did then. Considering that many musicians regress in their playing from the time of their peak, this isn’t a bad thing. His vocals also sounded equal to what they did at his prime. Playing and singing at the same time is more difficult than it seems, so I give credit to anyone that can do that well, as Frampton does. Another thing to give him credit for is his very early use and developing of the talk box guitar effect, which he had in toe for this short and highly intimate set of about 45 minutes. It is, after all, a trademark part of his show.

The other members of the band on the very small stage was limited to only bassist John Regan, who’s been with Frampton since ‘79, and keyboardist and second guitarist Rob Arthur, who’s been aboard for a few years to replace long time keyboardist Bob Mayo, who sadly passed away from a heart attack at a far-too-young age of 53. They played comfortably and tightly together and the overall sound was clear and pleasing. The lighting was minimal and there was virtually no room on the stage for them to move around. Frampton’s biggest hits were played, such as “Do You Feel Like We Do,” “Baby I Love Your Way,” “Lines On My Face” and “Show Me The Way.” The crowd was showing Frampton that they indeed liked his way, evidenced by whistling, hollers and ample applause.

Denis Leary went on before Frampton, after a couple of relatively unknown bands comprised of at least some recovering addicts opened for him. Leary, who’s shtick is foul-mouthed, stream-of-consciousness comedy especially about smoking, drinking, macho men and/or beautiful women, did a bit of stand-up and sang a couple of songs, including the one he’s best known for, “Asshole.” Leary is no singer and was doing it as a goof only. His set was quite short at about 20 minutes, and was enjoyable.

He made it clear that he’s proud of his Irish back ground, and he seemed like an every day, approachable person. I was able to speak to him briefly backstage where I was mingling. It turns out that we have the same birthday of Aug.18, with him being born in ‘57 and me in ‘69. I didn’t know this fact until after we met and he took this photo with me. I did know that Leary has a television show called Rescue Me, (since ‘04) which I’ve never seen (I don’t watch many current television shows). I also learned that he has an outstanding charity of his own. He founded the Leary Firefighters Foundation (LFF) charity in response to the Dec. 3, 1999 warehouse fire that claimed the lives of six firefighters in his hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts. To make matters even worse, this included his cousin Jeremiah Lucey. Leary also established LFF projects for New York’s firefighters in response to the FDNY’s losses in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as well as assisting the fire department of New Orleans to help restore firefighting capabilities that were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina of 2005.

I’m not aware of Leary’s history concerning drug use/abuse, although I know he’s quite a cigarette smoker and extols how pleasurable they are. He does the same concerning alcohol but to a lesser degree, I believe. Both damage and kill so many, of course. They also both contain drugs in their own right, despite being legal to those of age.

The Road To Recovery is all about rescuing young people. It therefore makes a certain kind of sense, once the carcinogenic smoke has cleared and the cell snuffing hangover still lingers, why Leary was there. If the young people earnestly avoid what he praises, they will be a heck of lot healthier.