Peter Frampton/Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening
It’s time to bid adieu, at least in terms of live performance, to a true rock celebrity. This weekend will mark the final regional concert appearance of Peter Frampton. Performing in his one-time home base of Cincinnati, the veteran guitarist and song stylist visits Riverbend Music Center as part of a Farewell Tour that concludes at Madison Square Garden in mid-September.
Frampton’s stage exit wasn’t part of any retirement plan. Earlier this year came word he had been diagnosed with Inclusion Body Myositis (IBM), a progressive muscle disease causing inflammation, weakness and eventual atrophy. But at age 69, Frampton is making full use of his remaining time as working musician. A flurry of studio activity yielded the June release of “All Blues,” a collection of blues standards cut with Frampton’s longrunning touring band (guitarist Adam Lester, keyboardist Rob Arthur and drummer Dan Wojciechowski). It also features cameos by Fabulous Thunderbirds vocalist/harmonica ace Kim Wilson as well as a trio of all-star guitar pals – Larry Carlton, Sonny Landreth and Steve Morse.
For many, Frampton’s popularity is defined by the multi-platinum selling 1976 concert album, “Frampton Comes Alive!” But the record’s mammoth popularity was a chapter – a rather epic chapter, mind you – in a career that extends back over a half-century. Predating “Frampton Comes Alive!” was a string of potent roots, rock and boogie saturated albums with Humble Pie (culminating with another landmark live record, “Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore” in 1971) and a quartet of strong studio albums on the A&M label between 1972 and 1975 that formed the repertoire for “Frampton Comes Alive.”
Curiously, Frampton didn’t win his one and only Grammy until 2007 for the instrumental album “Fingerprints.”
“Playing guitar is the most important thing to me apart from my family,” Frampton told me in an interview prior to a 2016 acoustic concert at the Lexington Opera House. “I was very young when I started it. It was something I was using to just hide away and do my thing. I was very shy when I was young, so that was the thing that got me through the night, as it were. And guess what? It still does.”
George Winston/Andrew Bird
Leave it to the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour to come up with the summer’s most unexpected double-bill. The program’s July 15 taping at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center will team one of the original voices of the famed Windham Hill label, pianist George Winston, with acclaimed violinist and pop stylist Andrew Bird.
Both artists have strong new, topically inclined albums to showcase. Winston released “Restless Wind,” a collection of politically charged pop staples recast as solo piano pieces, including Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” Mark Isham’s “The Times of Harvey Milk” and Country Joe McDonald’s “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag.”
Bird minces no words when it comes to how he feels about his newest album. It’s titled “My Finest Work Yet.” Designed as a set of subtle pop mediations seasoned by pizzicato violin and whistling, the songs seek a sense of solace in a time consumed by political division.
Billy Bob Thornton and the Boxmasters
You may think you know Billy Bob Thornton, the actor/writer/producer famed for wildly disparate roles in such movies as “Sling Blade,” “A Simple Plan” and “Monster’s Ball” as well as the current running series “Goliath.” But what brings him to Lexington next week is something a bit more musical.
Since 2001, he has been a prolific recording artist with a string of four solo albums following by nine records cut over 11 years with the California band The Boxmasters. The latter will land Thornton at Manchester Music Hall on July 18.
The band came together as result of sessions for Thornton’s 2007 album, “Beautiful Door” and subsequent jamming with engineer/guitarist J.D. Andrew. The self-titled debut album from The Boxmasters emerged the following year.
Initially more reflective of country and Americana inspirations, Thornton and Boxmasters gradually adopted a more pop-savvy sound through the years. It’s newest album, “Speck,” reflects a strong sense of Beatles-friendly lyricism. Perhaps not coincidentally, the record was produced by Geoff Emerick, who served as engineer for the majority of the Beatles’ catalog from “Revolver” onward. He also produced several landmark albums in subsequent decades, including Elvis Costello’s “Imperial Bedroom.”
Emerick died in October 2018, not long after sessions for “Speck” were completed.