Peter Frampton at The Met

Have you been to The Met yet?  If you haven’t, I can’t recommend it enough.  Sunday, July 10th was my first visit and I can’t wait to go back.  When you enter the seating area you can’t help but be taken back by the beauty and detail of the auditorium.  The second thing you can’t get over is how small it is inside.  I was only on the lower level but I’m certain the auditorium at my kids’ high school is bigger.  It may be as big as the Tower but if it is they’ve done some kind of magic to make it feel smaller.  I felt like I could touch both side walls at the same time.  A real intimate feel and when the music starts it just sounds great in that room.  I can’t wait to be back here for my next show.

Jason Bonham /Led Zeppelin Evening:

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Was it Led Zeppelin? No, but it was the closest thing I have and will ever see.  I arrived just as the band had begun their opening number and from the lobby of the Met, it sounded like Zeppelin was on stage.  The music was spot on and to hear James Dylan sing was as close as you can be to Robert Plant.  The only thing missing was the smoke-filled air of the Spectrum in the early 70s.  Maybe it was that the refinished Met is so new and pristine but seeing these guys and hearing them didn’t mesh well for me.  Maybe it was because guitarist Jimmy Sakurai seems to be a clone of a young Jimmy Page from his dress to his movements while Dylan and his bald head obviously can’t appear like a young Plant.

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I certainly enjoyed the music and the setlist was all you could ask for in the shortened time frame.  When it comes to Zeppelin there’s too much material to ever cover in one show but a nine-song set certainly was not long enough for me.  It’s clear these guys have worked very hard to polish this set and the sound was perfect.  Maybe that was the issue: the live performance is so spot on to the recordings I’ve grown up with.  The show didn’t have any variance from the original as you so often see when a band performs live.  I don’t know what it was that bothers me but I can’t get over how good they sounded and how much I enjoyed hearing them play these songs.  The crowd certainly enjoyed the show and despite my personal issue, I loved the music.

Peter Frampton:

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Before taking the stage a pre-recorded audio message from Frampton was played for the crowd.  Frampton laid out his rules for photos telling the whole crowd that they could take photos and videos without flash for the first three songs only, then put the phone down and enjoy the moment.  I’ll be out to join you shortly.   It seemed a bit unusual but nothing about this night would be what I was used to at a rock and roll concert.  When Frampton took the stage he took up a position at the side of the stage, not the center.  It was clear from the lighting that this was about Peter Frampton, the band was secondary when it came to who you were supposed to pay attention to.   Frampton immediately gave the crowd a favorite from his catalog with Baby (Something’s Happening).   From the opening notes, it was clear that despite his age and recent medical diagnosis, his hands are still legendary.  This was different right away, I’ve seen a lot of concerts and a lot of great guitar players but something here was different.   The crowd knew it too and a few seconds into the song they did something I’ve never seen at a show before.  They all sat down very quietly and just listened.  No one shouted over the singer, they simply sat and watched the virtuoso perform.  When the song ended the crowd quickly stood up and cheered paying their respect and as the next song began they were seated once again.  It struck me as very odd, like being at a play or a symphony, not at all what I expected at a rock concert.  As the night continued though it made more sense.  Throughout his setlist, Frampton took time to tell stories about his history and the many artists he’s played with over the years.  He was humble and respectful when talking about the great people he’s played with or those whose music influenced and inspired him.  He paid tribute to those who had passed and did impressions of those still with us like Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts.  He told the story of being contacted by a friend who let him know that the drums form Frampton Comes Alive were up for sale on eBay.  He joked that he’s now paid for those drums twice, and then pointed to the drum riser and said, and there they are!  This was an opportunity for Frampton to tell a charming story and remember a longtime friend.

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The evening went like this the whole way through.  Frampton slipping in a story here and there about his current blues release then playing three blues tracks.  His guitar work on Georgia was jaw-dropping.  Following the blues numbers, the band left the stage and Peter took a seat front and center.  He played two acoustic songs: All I Wanna Be (Is by Your Side) and then floored everyone with his skill on Penny for Your Thoughts.  His hands still hold all the magic they ever did as he worked his way through that song.  You could tell how much he enjoyed playing and at times he even seemed almost embarrassed of the recognition the crowd gave him.  Always very humble, even as he told the story of how his instrumental album flopped commercially but won him a grammy for instrumental album of the year.  His interaction with the crowd went beyond a few simple words, he seemed to really open up and share these stories, never in a rush to get to the next song.  He was clearly savoring the moment of being on stage doing what he loves and the crowd was only too happy to watch him do it.  The band returned and we went into a very electric guitar-heavy set of songs with his outstanding version of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun.  Once again a quick story to honor Chris Cornell.  During (I’ll Give You) Money, Frampton, and his fellow guitarist had a dueling solo for several minutes.  At the end, Frampton was sure to walk away first allowing his guitarist to get the acknowledgment from the crowd.  Frampton closed out the night with some more of his favorites including Baby I Love Your Way, Do You Feel Like We Do, and three more covers including While My Guitar Gently Weeps.  This was your last chance to see Frampton live, and I couldn’t be happier that I got to experience it myself.  Having seen him in person I have a new respect for his talent and his person.  He was the most talented musician in the building but he shared the credit and deflected the attention from himself all night.  Much like his first band, he was very Humble Pie.

[Photos by Michael Green]

[Article by Michael Green]

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