Concert review: Peter Frampton & Yes at Pier Six Pavilion
Midnight Sun reviewer and JazzTimes editor Evan Haga was at Pier Six Pavilion last night to see Yes and Peter Frampton. Here are this thoughts on the show:
Rock shows are many, many things, but they typically aren't punctual.
Yet Peter Frampton and his four-member touring band took the stage at Pier 6 a few minutes before their scheduled 7 p.m. start time last night, and the promptness proved necessary: There was a lot of music to plow through.
Frampton was part of a double-bill with Yes, and each group performed a hearty, roughly hour-and-40-minute set, including encores. It was an effective pairing, with enough contrast but also some shared philosophies. Nostalgia was a factor, sure — these bands toured together as commercial juggernauts in 1976 — but so was professionalism and musicianship: The comfort of proper sound engineering, the splendor of the extended guitar or keyboard solo, the willingness to play single songs that lasted half as long as a typical opening act's entire set. (As rock and roll history goes, punk exists because of concerts like this one.) Peter Frampton, then as now, offered the looser, sunnier side of '70s rock excess; Yes' progressive rock was the bookish, labyrinthine sort. ...
On that '70s tandem tour, Frampton was larger than life: His record-breaking document, "Frampton Comes Alive!," was released in early '76, and he filled stadiums as a composite teen idol/guitar hero. Classic-rock radio has kept him in a time capsule since then, despite some latter-day successes — the Grammy-winning instrumental record he released in 2006, for instance — so nostalgia presented something of an elephant in the room last night.
But Frampton embraced and sometimes toyed with it, in a "just happy to be here" stride that made the guitarist easy to cheer for. He wore his 60 years gracefully (sans his frilly mane of yesteryear), in jeans and a short-sleeve polo, and played the hits like he meant it, on new equipment. (His regular gear, stored in Nashville, fell victim to the flood.)
"Show Me the Way" had a modern, more rocking arrangement with slide guitar from second guitarist Adam Lester up front and Frampton’s trademarked talk box effect, which educed cheers each and every time the guitarist employed it; "Baby, I Love Your Way" was an acoustic campfire sing-along; and "Do You Feel Like We Do?," as the man promised, was performed in its "long version," a sprawling exercise in dynamics that reinforced how excellent a rock guitarist Frampton can be: He deftly paces his blues-rock phrasing and uses some added harmonic language, and knows precisely when to simmer and when wail.
With a chuckle, Frampton made sure the crowd heard him plug his brand new record, and played some of its middling material; a couple of covers fared better, including an instrumental take on Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun," and the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" done as a competent vocal.
Yes stated their purpose early on, walking onstage to a recorded overture of Stravinsky’s "Firebird Suite," and proceeded to give a clinic in the valor and vice of prog. Heyday members Steve Howe (guitar), Chris Squire (bass) and Alan White (drums) combined with Rick Wakeman's son Oliver on keyboards and vocalist Benoît David, whom the band cribbed from a Yes tribute act to replace an ill Jon Anderson in 2008. (Yes, he sounds remarkably like Anderson, but yes, Anderson is sorely missed.)
The set list looked mostly toward the ambitious, multi-sectioned masterworks of the group's classic early '70s records: Heady numbers like "Yours Is No Disgrace," "And You and I," "Perpetual Change," "Close to the Edge," the encore "Starship Trooper" and, a crowd pleaser from its first harmonic, "Roundabout." (There was, sadly, no "I’ve Seen All Good People.")
Howe, at 63, demonstrated all the genre-mashing fretboard agility that made him a guitar-magazine regular—on acoustic guitar, electric guitar, an electric made to simulate an acoustic or, most spectacularly, his warm-toned Gibson ES-175 hollowbody, a jazz guitar he turned into a vehicle for shredding. One song stuck out like a sore thumb: "Owner of a Lonely Heart," a Billboard No. 1 from 1983 that many prog-rock fanboys saw as a shameful pop concession. (An old fanboy behind me actually booed.) Only Frampton could get away with such equal portions of guitar heroism and plain-as-day pop.