At No. 6 in our Top 20 of 2023 countdown: The review of classic rock guitarist Peter Frampton’s tour-starting June show that came five decades after his first West Michigan appearance.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Our countdown of the top stories of 2023 continues on Christmas Day with a look back at the Local Spins review of iconic guitarist Peter Frampton’s triumphant, sold-out concert at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park on June 19 — the 6th most popular story of the year. Plus, scroll down for a photo gallery from The Bootstrap Boys’ recent ‘Winter Solstice’ show.
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Just a year before recording the album that would become one of the best-selling live collections of all time – turning Peter Frampton into an international superstar – the British guitarist uncorked many of the same iconic songs for a robust crowd at the domed Grand Valley State Colleges fieldhouse in Allendale.
The handsome, golden-haired 24-year-old guitarist – following opening sets by Spooky Tooth and Montrose during the June 22, 1974, tour stop – delivered audience-pleasing renditions of “All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)” and “Do You Feel Like We Do,” even completing a searing guitar solo without a hiccup even though he broke a string midway through.
It was proof of the engaging, ultra-gifted musician and singer’s rock savvy and future as a guitar hero, after paying his dues with Humble Pie.
Fast forward (almost) exactly 49 years to June 19 at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, when the now 73-year-old guitarist returned to the outdoor amphitheater and, yes, revisited many of the tracks from “Frampton Comes Alive” that made him globally famous and cemented his status as a rock legend.
And despite an ongoing battle with the degenerative Inclusion Body Myositis that atrophies his muscles (and had him announcing a farewell four years ago), Frampton’s 2023 “Never Say Never Tour” kickoff in Grand Rapids was nothing if not an energetic, triumphant statement by a guitarist whose vocal and instrumental skills clearly remain prodigious and relevant.
With a sold-out crowd of 1,900-plus (mostly baby boomers) on hand, the multi-platinum-selling guitarist and singer used a cane to take the stage and remained seated for the entire 2-hour-and-20-minute concert that began with “Lying” from 1986’s “Premonition” and wrapped up with an encore that featured Humble Pie’s “Four Day Creep” and “I Don’t Need No Doctor” and a surprising, emotion-rending version of The Beatles’ and George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
What the top-shelf band lacked in energy from staying seated rather than roaming the stage it more than made up for with tight, loud and rousing renditions of songs from Frampton’s extensive catalog, enhanced by colorful and historic images on a video backdrop.
REALLY COMFORTABLE ON STAGE, LOVING MEIJER GARDENS
“The whole reason behind doing some of these numbers we’re doing is that I had quit because I thought I was not going to to be able to play anymore because of my fingers,” Frampton told fans early on.
“Whatever I have, a muscle disease, it has given me more time, it’s progressing so slowly. It’s quite amazing what an audience and never-give-up attitude will do.”
Indeed, that “never-give-up” mentality gave West Michigan fans another opportunity to cheer a gifted guitarist’s rock and blues acumen, highlighted on an absolutely perfect-weather Monday night by “All I Want To Be,” “Can’t Take That Away,” “(I’ll Give You) Money” (trading sizzling guitar leads with bandmate Adam Lester) and “Do You Feel Like We Do,” which had the entire amphitheater standing and singing along.
Frampton also dedicated songs to late bandmate John Regan (“Lines on My Face” and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell (“Black Hole Sun”), while clearly reveling in his return to the stage and Meijer Gardens’ scenic milieu.
“I’m really comfortable up here,” Frampton gushed at one point. “It’s probably because you’re all smiling.”
Smiling because Frampton proved that he’s not nearly ready to pack his guitar away – a decision enthusiastically reinforced by his fans – especially with dozens of concerts ahead on his summer tour, release of a “Frampton@50” vinyl box set and work on a follow-up to his 2020 “All Blues” album.
“I’m going to keep on playing and saying, ‘Never say never,’ ” he proclaimed before leaving the stage. “We love it here. What a crowd.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Peter Frampton at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Joshua Tufts
BONUS PHOTO GALLERY (from Dec. 21)
The Bootstrap Boys at Midtown
Photos by Joshua Tufts