29 October 2019

I'm Not Going to Say Goodbye: Peter Frampton live at the Forum

When given the opportunity to witness greatness, one should always take advantage.  It’s a statement to live by, and it always comes to mind for me in regards to live music.  Ever since I moved to Los Angeles, I have attended a large number of concerts, often seeking out artists at the top of their craft and/or nearing the end of their career.  I’m particularly drawn to virtuoso musicians with great skill that is best viewed in person - especially guitarists.

I’ve yet to see Eric Clapton, I missed B.B. King before he passed, so I knew I had to see Peter Frampton during his recent tour.  Unfortunately, it would be his farewell tour, as Frampton announced that he had a medical condition that would prevent him from performing in the future - this, of course, added more incentive for me to see him live.  He’d played in Los Angeles consistently over the years but I always seemed to be busy on those evenings, but thankfully not on this night.  He was also playing at the Forum in Inglewood, one of my favorite live music venues.

I convinced my friend Chad to join me, and we arrived in Inglewood with plenty of time to grab a bite and settle into our seats for the opening act, which was the Julian Frampton Band, fronted by Peter’s son (the headliner of the night made sure to come out and introduce them).  I was impressed, as the band ripped through a solid half-hour of good old-fashioned rock music.  They would give way to “Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Evening”, which was a musical treat for sure.

The son of legendary drummer John Bonham has been thrilling audiences with the music from his father’s band for several years, and his skill was evident immediately.  The musicians surrounding him were incredibly talented and yet never really attempted to be Led Zeppelin clones - I was blown away by the vocal range of the singer, who channeled Robert Plant but put his own spin on the songs.  They took the audience through the biggest hits of the classic band, and perfectly set the stage for the final act of the evening.

The lights went down and a video montage spanning his career played on the giant screens, before Peter Frampton greeted the roaring crowd.  He jumped right into “Something’s Happening” with gusto - I’ll admit that I’m not overly familiar with his entire catalog, but like many music fans before me I do truly enjoy the “Frampton Comes Alive” album - and having him start his concert with the same song that kicks off that classic live album was fantastic!  He would continue on with several original compositions, highlighted by “Show Me The Way”, a rock radio staple that I’ve long admired.  I quickly turned to Chad after the song was over to say, “that was worth the price of admission alone”, and noticed that the fan sitting directly behind me said the exact same thing!

From there, Peter took a brief musical detour to pay homage to some of his favorite blues musicians, which included a stirring instrumental rendition of “Georgia (On My Mind)”.  His guitar mastery was on great display, as he effortlessly played each note and walked the audience through musical history.  He also offered tribute to the late Chris Cornell with a cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” - Peter received a Grammy nomination in 2007 for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for his recording of this cover (his 2006 album Fingerprints would earn Peter his only Grammy award, for Best Pop Instrumental Album).  As if we weren’t already thoroughly entertained, the last three songs of his main set were absolute showstoppers.

Lasting more than 10 minutes, the band's rendition of "(I'll Give You) Money" was dazzling, to say the least - Peter was holding his own with his younger bandmates, captivating the audience with a lengthy guitar duel with fellow axeman Adam Lester.  The sentimentality of "Baby, I Love Your Way" followed, giving us one last chance to hear Peter's sweet crooning amidst a sea of cell phones and swaying fans.  The final song of the main set was another lengthy track, the crowd-pleasing "Do You Feel Like We Do", allowing our host to use his signature "talkbox" to thrill the crowd before a brief departure from the stage.

The encore would consist of three more covers, notably concluding with a heartfelt rendition of The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".  But once it ended, it was time for us to weep as Peter addressed the crowd for the final time.  He spoke lovingly about the support he has received over the years, and how the cheers from the crowd would serve to heal him.  His voice trembled as he thanked everyone, then took a moment to gather himself before uttering one last memorable line:

"I'm not going to say goodbye."

And just like that, he vanished off the stage to a deafening roar.  We had witnessed two hours of musical mastery from a true legend, who left us speechless with his skill, charm and poignancy.  It was a concert that I will NEVER forget, and I can only hope to see his smiling face once again in the future, fronting this tremendous group of musicians and enthralling fans along the way.

Peter Frampton Setlist The Forum, Inglewood, CA, USA 2019, Finale: The Farewell Tour


Chad pointed out something interesting to me during the show - each band played a song during their set that I had previously seen performed by another artist at this same venue:

- The Julian Frampton Band performed the Fleetwood Mac song "Landslide", which I heard during concerts by both The Dixie Chicks (October 2016) and The Smashing Pumpkins (August 2018).
- Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Evening performed "Whole Lotta Love", which I heard by Prince (featuring Nikka Costa on lead vocals) in April 2011.
- Peter Frampton performed "Black Hole Sun", which I heard by Soundgarden in July 2011.

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