Peter Frampton & Cheap Trick at The Paramount

Mike Perciaccante By

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Peter Frampton & Cheap Trick
The Paramount
Huntington, NY
July 29, 2015

Frampton Comes Alive! (A&M, 1976) and Live At Budukan (Epic, 1978) are two of the most iconic live recordings of the past 40-or-so years. As such, it's only fitting (and inevitable) that Peter Frampton and Cheap Trick would eventually mount a potent co-headlining tour. In 2015, that eventuality has finally come to pass.

In the midst of a blistering New York heatwave, on the hottest day of the year (up to that point) it was cool, both figuratively and literally, inside Huntington, NY's Paramount.

The evening's performance began with an opening audio and video montage followed by what has become this classic quartet's usual recorded introduction and calling card, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, please welcome to the stage, the best fucking rock 'n' roll band in the galaxy—Cheap Trick!" Opening with a grouping of songs that comprise the majority of side 1 of the Live at Budokan album—"Hello There," "Come On, Come On," "Big Eyes" and "Lookout." Other staples from the band's breakthrough live release—the Fats Domino cover "Ain't That A Shame," "I Want You To Want Me" and "Surrender"—would make their appearance throughout the slick, high-energy rockin' set.

Fans of the cannot help but remember the cover of 1979's Dream Police album (Epic Records). The band appeared in white police uniforms. On this evening, rhythm guitarist and lead singer Robin Zander chose to dress in black leather pants, a motorcycle jacket featuring a "Dream Police" patch on the right shoulder, a black t-shirt and a black police cap featuring a star. Though the true meaning of Zander's ensemble remains unclear, the audience was left to sort that out for themselves. Lead guitarist Rick Nielsen, dressed as he normally does—a shiny black sports jacket over a t-shirt (on this night the t-shirt features Nielsen's own likeness), a baseball cap and converse all-stars. Bassist Tom Petersson, as usual, appeared in jeans and a long jacket while sporting a scarf at his neck and stylish glasses. Drummer Daxx Nielsen (yes, he's Rick's son) was dressed for comfort in jeans and a black t-shirt on which the letters spelling "New York" dripped down the front.

Cheap Trick's performance was highlighted by the ferocity and intensity of the music, by Zander's vocals and by Rick Nielsen's energy, sense of humor and the absurd (on the neck of one of his guitars, between and over the frets, the words "Gonna Raise Hell" was spelled out in black letters), and propensity to flick and toss guitar picks to fans with an amazing pinpoint accuracy. Another highlight was Petersson's lead vocal on the Velvet Underground classic "Waiting For the Man." The band closed out it's wild, fierce and powerful performance with powerful versions of the ballad "The Flame." "I Want You To Want Me," "The Dream Police" (after which Rick Nielsen thanked Peter Frampton), "Surrender" and "Gonna Raise Hell." The entire seventeen song performance was over in a flash—they came, they played, they conquered—and they were gone.

It's hard to follow an act as tight, forceful, fun and entertaining as Cheap Trick. Only top flight musicians can do so with any measure of success. Peter Frampton is one such musician. His performance on this evening was masterful.

For the uninitiated, Frampton is a Grammy Award-winning (for Best Instrumental Album—2006's A&M release ) member of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. In addition to his solo successes, the English guitarist was also a member of Humble Pie and the Herd. He has worked with his old school chum David Bowie, members of Pearl Jam, B.B. King, members of the The Rolling Stones, Warren Haynes, Harry Nilsson, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Bee Gees, George Harrison, Robert Cray, Don Felder, Rick Derringer, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Steve Lukather, Sonny Landreth, David Hidalgo, Roger McGuinn, John Entwistle and many others. Frampton's most loved songs include "Show Me the Way," "Lines On My Face," "Lying," "I'll Give You Money," "Baby, I Love Your Way," "Do You Feel Like We Do," "Breaking The Rules" and "I'm in You." Lastly, the guitarist seems to constantly be breaking new ground. His most recent CD, 2014's Hummingbird In A Box: Songs For a Ballet (Phenix Phonograph/Red Music) was written for the Cincinnati Ballet. The mostly-instrumental (though the CD contains some vocals), jazzy, bluesy and gentle music that appeared on the album was choreographed and performed by the dance company during its 50th Anniversary season.

The Frampton of 2015 is a lot different from the Frampton of 1976. He is now 65 years of age. He is still fit, though gone are the long golden brown locks. He is still trim and fit. His voice is strong and clear, and he can play the hell out of his guitar.

Appearing on the stage wearing an unassuming blue t-shirt and jeans with one of his many Les Paul guitars slung over his shoulder, Frampton began his portion of the evening with the fitting "Something's Happening" (which is also the opening number on Frampton Comes Alive!). "Doobie Wah" and "Show Me The Way" followed in quick succession (much as they did on the historic live album). Frampton and his band, Rob Arthur on guitar and vocals, guitarist Adam Lester, Stanley Seldon on bass and drummer Dan Wojciechowski were all in fine form delivering perfect renditions of the classic songs. As with Cheap Trick and its live album, Frampton's leaned heavily on his landmark live release. "Lines On my Face," a scorching version of "(I'll Give You) Money," "Baby, I Love Your Way" and the main set-closer "Do You Feel Like We Do" were littered throughout the show.

A portion of Frampton Comes Alive! was recorded on Long Island, in the defunct Long Island Arena in Commack. Only a short drive from the Paramount, it was appropriate when Frampton paused to say, "Good evening, Huntington and the rest of Long Island." And, appropriately, the mostly-middle-aged crowd (many of whom were heard professing that they had seen him "play in Commack back in the day") responded with an earth-shatteringly loud volley of cheers. whistles and applause.

Frampton is also an excellent interpreter of other people's work. This was supremely evident on the diverse covers that he chose to perform. Rousing versions of Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours," Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" and the tender, moving, faithful and poignant encore of his friend George Harrison's signature song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" gave the concert an eclectic flair.

Though, Frampton was the de-facto headliner, performing last, both bands were equally represented in the crowd. A brisk business was being done at the merchandise stand as audience members were seen purchasing t-shirts emblazoned with the names of both performers. The sale of the swag appeared to be almost evenly split. Other members of the crowd came wearing their favorite Cheap Trick or Frampton concert tees—some appeared to have been purchased in the '70s. The audience which was comprised mostly of Baby Boomers (and their children) who packed the mid-sized venue to the gills, squeezing into and taking up every last portion of available floor space. These folks sang along mightily with both bands as they played the songs that defined their youth.

When it was over, the drenched and sweaty from bopping to the beat crowd trudged down the stairs and spilt into the sweltering night spent, thrilled and satisfied by the soul nourishing notes of the legendary performances.

Photo Credit: Christine Connallon
[Additional article contributions by Christine Connallon].

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