Released in 1976, Frampton Comes Alive! became one of the biggest-selling live albums in history. That year, photo portraits of a youthful Peter Frampton draped in wavy blond hair seemed to be everywhere. Nearly 50 years later, a 73-year-old Frampton wears close-cropped gray hair, walks with a cane, and sits for his entire performance.
In 2018, Frampton was diagnosed with Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM), a degenerative disease that weakens muscles. In 2019, aware of his mounting health challenges, Frampton embarked on what he branded as a final tour. This summer, finding his fingers and voice still working well, he returned to the road for his Never Say Never Tour. The tour included two nights at the Capitol Theatre.
At 8:00 p.m., the house lights dimmed and the back projection screen over the stage showed dozens of images chronicling Frampton’s career. They flashed at lightning speed over the course of just a few minutes. Meanwhile, guitarist Adam Lester, keyboardist Rob Arthur, bassist Alison Prestwood, and drummer Dan Wojciechowski found their stations in the dark.
As the slideshow ended, a single spotlight showed a smiling Frampton walking onto stage left. To thunderous applause, he waved his cane in the air. He then nimbly made his way to a swivel chair (where he would remain for the next two-and-a-half hours).
Frampton strapped on a guitar and the band launched into “Lying,” a song from his eponymous 1986 album. His voice and his extended guitar licks sounded much like they did decades ago. Although his mobility was impaired, his musical skills were in excellent form.
The evening’s repertoire included the three biggest hits from Frampton Comes Alive! – “Show Me the Way,” “Baby, I Love Your Way,” and “Do You Feel Like We Do?” The set also included songs from his earlier days with Humble Pie, such as “Shine On,” “Four Day Creep,” and “I Don’t Need No Doctor.” Intentionally, the set interwove familiar songs with deep cuts rarely performed live. Some of the surprises included covers of Hoagy Carmichael and His Orchestra’s “Georgia (On My Mind)” played instrumentally, Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” and a rousing show closer with the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
Many of the familiar songs were revitalized with extended instrumental segments. “Lines on My Face” and “Baby, I Love Your Way” began with a Spanish guitar-styled instrumentation. “All I Wanna Be (Is by Your Side)” was performed electrically, even though the version on Frampton Comes Alive! was performed acoustically. “(I’ll Give You) Money” had Frampton and Adam Lester facing each other in their chairs as they traded solos. Frampton’s licks often would return him to his early blues roots.
Frampton was personable between songs, telling stories and even chiding late arrivals. After “Four Day Creep,” he told the audience that normally he would walk off stage before returning for an encore but, now that it takes him so long to do that, he and the band would stay on stage and play two more songs. Most moving of all was how he stayed on stage after all the musicians left. He stood alone, balanced by his cane. He humbly thanked the audience for making this tour possible, promised he intended to continue fighting his illness, and shared his hope for a cure – and yet another concert tour.
Peter Frampton gave his audience their money’s worth. Five decades later, once again Frampton came alive in New York.
Photos by Everynight Charley
Shine On (Humble Pie song)
I Got My Eyes on You
Lines on My Face
Show Me the Way
Georgia (On My Mind) (Hoagy Carmichael and His Orchestra cover)