Unlike many artists of his era, Peter Frampton appears to be neither struggling for relevance in today’s chaotic music business nor pursuing it. His show at the Wiltern was more an illustration of a man enjoying himself onstage seemingly at ease with his place in the industry than a performance by an artist with something to prove.
Touring in support of his latest disc, the aptly if unimaginatively titled “Now,” Frampton used tracks from the new album (released on his Framptone Records label) almost as musical bumpers for the handful of his well-known radio friendly hits first released 30 years ago.
From the show opener, “I Need Ground,” with its chugging rhythms and self-deprecating lyrics, Frampton seized every conceivable opportunity to do what he does best and what the crowd came to see: launch into flights of fretwork on his signature Les Paul guitars that have the artist mugging and grinning broadly with each turn of the phrase. His facial expressions alone are worth the price of admission.
His guitar work was most impressive on “Hour of Need,” one of the better “Now” tracks, that featured a showcase of Frampton’s considerable style and acumen wrapped in a duel of axes with guitarist Bob Mayo.
Yet it was the trip down memory lane that brought the crowd to its feet, early in the set with the 1973 gem “Lines on My Face,” later with what must’ve been the millionth live rendition of “Baby I Love Your Way,” and the 21-minute set finale of the classic rock radio staple “Do You Feel Like We Do.”
But Frampton’s most notable flaw was the choice of the only encore, the Beatles classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Though appropriate because of the song’s message, and that it appears on “Now” (continuing a decades-long practice of Frampton’s placing a cover song on each album), the die-hard crowd clearly would have preferred one of Frampton’s popular ’70s era tunes.
Opener Joe Bonamassa provided an inspiring set of guitar-driven blues rock from his junior indie offering, “So, It’s Like That” (Medalist). Although a competent vocalist, the 26-year-old guitar virtuoso shone brightest when he let his fingers do the communicating.