CEDAR RAPIDS — The tour is billed as “Peter Frampton FINALE — The Farewell Tour,” but his parting words after Monday’s McGrath Amphitheatre concert give fans hope for more.
“I’m not ready to say goodbye. I love you all.”
The nearly 3,000 fans in attendance weren’t ready to say goodbye, either. Time and again they screamed for more from the legendary guitarist and his A-list band, who filled the perfect night air with two hours of blazing sounds along the riverbank.
Chatting with several of my musical friends afterward, they were unanimously “bowled over” by the guitar prowess that Iowa blues and rock hall of fame guitarist Craig Erickson deemed “ferocious.”
That’s the perfect word to describe Frampton.
And I can’t imagine this is the last time we’ll hear from him.
Frampton, now 69, comes alive onstage, rocking back and forth between smiling with his whole being and gritting his teeth through rapid-fire passages.
The set list was a lovely blend of singalong hits, vintage covers from his recently released “All Blues” album, and a blistering cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” from his Grammy-winning 2006 all-instrumental collection, “Fingerprints.”
His softer side was on full display, as well, from the opening photo montage chronicling his life, to “Lines on My Face,” a celebration of deceased bandmates drummer John Siomos and keyboard/guitar player Bob Mayo. Frampton’s fingers tripped over the strings like he was playing a piano as he turned his lost-love song into a touching tribute etched with a very reverent, nostalgic feel.
Current drummer Dan Wojciechowski was even playing Siomos’ emerald green drum kit, which Frampton bought off eBay. Siomos used those drums on the seminal “Frampton Comes Alive” album. And for the tribute song, Frampton fired up the guitar he was playing on that 1976 double live album as well.
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The British-born Frampton peppered the concert with sweet, fun and sassy tidbits from his lifetime and career, which made the concert just so personal and delightful. He clearly was in his element.
And we knew were in for something special, from the virtuosic guitar licks of the opening “Something’s Happening” to the closing strains of the encore, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” The late George Harrison had to be smiling, knowing his gorgeous ode is in the right hands to turn it into full-blown wailing guitar anthem.
In between, sparks flew from Frampton’s fingertips on “Lying;” he waved to the “house people” watching from their balconies across the street from the venue; launched into some deep and growly blues on “Georgia on My Mind,” by his mother’s favorite composer, Hoagy Carmichael; switched to upbeat rockin’ blues on a cover of Freddie King’s “Me and My Guitar,” then turned slow and gritty on King’s “Same Old Blues;” and gave fans their money’s worth on his megahits, “Show Me the Way,” “Baby, I Love Your Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do.” (The answer is “yes.”)
But his best moments came in his duels with his “wingman” guitarist Adam Lester on “(I’ll Give You) Money” and with keyboardist/guitarist Rob Arthur on Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.” Everyone’s a winner in these duels — especially the audience.
After a short and bluesy solo on “Do You Feel Like We Do,” Frampton took us to church, launching into an amen-worthy call-and-response with Arthur on the keyboards. Then the guitar god stepped back to let his band jam and shine, before adding in some more of his trademark “talkbox” vocal distortion, ending it all with a crash of sound as Wojciechowski unleashed his fury on drums.
And the crowd went wild — then wild again during the equally inspirational “Gently Weeps” encore.
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