By John Benson
The decades that followed Peter Frampton’s 1976 monster platinum album “Frampton Comes Alive,” which sold over 16 million copies worldwide, painted the guitarist as a one-hit-album wonder of sorts.
He was viewed as a lucky classic-rocker who was unable to sustain the success. Whatever the case, he’s no punch line today having finally returned to his roots. Oddly enough, it was a 35th anniversary tour of “Frampton Comes Alive” two years ago that led to this new chapter in his life.
“That tour was a three-hour show every night for 116 shows,” said Frampton, calling from Grand Prairie, Texas. “I needed a year off to get over that one. Now we’re back on the road, but the difference is I wanted as many guitar players on the stage all the time at any given moment within reason. So everyone is the headliner.”
The result is Frampton’s Guitar Circus tour, which comes to Cleveland for a Saturday show at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica. Joining the former Humble Pie guitarist on the bill that evening is opener Robert Cray.
Also, sitting in with Frampton will be The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn, who midset will be playing songs from his catalog including “So You Want to be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star” and The Byrds’ famous cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
Frampton said this revolving list of musicians opening and jamming with him throughout the tour has created quite a night of guitar-heavy tunes. More so, the set includes not only expected Frampton tunes (“Show Me the Way,” “Baby I Love Your Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do”) but a few obscure tracks from his past that epitomize his intended rocking motif.
“My passion is always guitar and always will be,” Frampton said. “It’s almost like we went full circle back to me the guitar player.”
Frampton points to set opener “Magic Moon [Da Da Da Da Da!],” which is from his 1974 album “Something’s Happening.” He said the song was inspired by Led Zeppelin. Also on the set list is the surprising cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.” Frampton covered it on his Grammy Award- winning 2006 instrumental album “Fingerprints.”
“That’s a song as soon as it came out by Soundgarden it gave me goosebumps,” Frampton said. “I always said I can’t ever sing it. I refuse to sing anything that Chris Cornell sings because I won’t do it justice. One time though on Chris’ solo tour, he had me come out and play it instrumentally before he came in with the vocal. That, I have to say, was one of the highlights of my musical career.”
The fact that performing with Cornell is one of the highlights of Frampton’s musical career — which includes sold-out stadium tours, No. 1 albums and over four decades in the business — is somewhat mind-boggling. More so, it speaks to the humbled nature of Frampton, whose legacy at one time was in question.
“Whether I like it or not, the first sentence [of my obituary] will contain three words: ‘Frampton Comes Alive,’” Frampton said. “And that’s OK. I’m very proud of that.”