Review: Peter Frampton brings a circus of nostalgia to festival

11:45 PM, Jun 28, 2013

Peter Frampton. (Photo provided by XRIJF)/


Written By Leah Stacy

About six months ago, Peter Frampton decided to start a touring circus void of animals and clowns, a circus never held under a brightly colored big top.

More coverage: Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival

Frampton’s Guitar Circus — headliner at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival on Friday — kicked off in May, and while it doesn’t have animals, it does boast talented guest stars and features a Jumbotron onstage, complete with old-time circus graphics. (The only clown in the act, Frampton jokes, is him “thank you very much.”)

The Robert Cray Band took the stage first, but it wasn’t a warm-up or an opener by any means. There’s a reason 59-year-old Cray yells, “Like this!” before he begins playing his Fender guitars (which he alternates from song to song). He’s simply showing everyone how the blues are played. Cray’s lovelorn lyrics and gritty voice had the crowd nodding their heads and tapping their feet in time to “Strong Persuader” and “Poor Johnny.”

After a 30-minute intermission, Frampton took the stage at about 8:30 p.m. The amps were loud, the guitar riffs were hot, and Frampton and his boys are positively gleeful onstage.

At 63 years old, Frampton no longer has his luscious locks, but he does have his custom black Gibson Les Paul, which was presumed lost in an airplane crash in 1979. After 31 years it was returned, and as he told the crowd, “We’re in love again.” The circus almost seems to exist so Frampton can play hits like “Show Me the Way” and “Baby I Love Your Way,” while touring with lifelong friends like bassist Stanley Sheldon. But it’s also a great way for the audience to hear a lot of award-winning music in one night.

Famed guitarist Don Felder received two standing ovations after the 65-year-old performed “Hotel California” and a cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride and Joy.”

And of course, it wouldn’t be a Frampton show without the Framptone, a tool created by Frampton that allows a singing voice to sound more like a guitar. Frampton sings into a clear tube wound around his mic stand, and a box on the floor distorts the sound.

The show lasted for nearly two hours, much to the delight of the crowd. His four-piece band — guitarist and “wingman” Adam Lester, drummer Dan Wojciechowski, keyboardist/guitarist Rob Arthur and Sheldon — kept up with Frampton’s constant dueling, tea sipping between songs and boundless energy.

Felder rejoined the band for the encore, performing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” The crowd was on its feet before the song ended, and a tired circus shuffled slowly off the stage with a sparkle in the performers’ eyes, preparing for a few more months on the road with ringmaster Frampton.