And Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus was no exception. I have a huge appreciation for that.
In one of the most unassuming performances I’ve seen, Sonny Landreth strolled on stage and proceeded to demonstrate what it would be like if a single man was possessed by every guitar god who came before him.
With his instrument strapped high on his chest Landreth proceeded to dominate the night within the first two minutes, effortlessly and without expression. To say Landreth is not a flamboyant artist would be an understatement, but you’re so busy watching that slide fly up and down the neck of his guitar you really don’t notice.
Landreth sang one song, then played several and I take back anything I said about Derek Trucks owning the slide guitar. This man is the undisputed king and I apologize to the commenters who took me on for my ignorance. They were right, I was wrong. I was, however, in the presence of a woman who said, Landreth is a better slide player but Trucks is easier on the eyes.
With a super-fast set change it was on to BB King.
I think I’ve said all I needed in my earlier piece but it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. You have to see the legend, however, and that we did. He is the King and always will be. BB called Frampton out to play with him in what we hoped was half way through “The Thrill is Gone,” but sadly it went on for what seemed like hours longer.
Frampton made multiple attempts to pull King back on track but to no avail and seemed quite frustrated with his guest. BB said of Frampton in the middle of the piece, “I don’t like bosses like him…if you aren’t doing it right, he’ll come out and play with you!”
The Kauffman Center was Burger King and BB was going to have it his way.
After intermission and a set change, the ring leader of the circus came out with a stellar line up of musicians. Introduced as home town boy, Stanley Sheldon proved his mastery of the bass. Sheldon was born in Ottawa, KS and spent a good deal of time at KU. Frampton made note that they had played together since the 70’s.
Adam Lester backed Frampton up on guitar with a quite capable Dan Wojciechowski on drums. But most interesting was Rob Arthur on the keyboard who proved equally at home on the guitar as well.
“Show Me the Way” broke out Frampton’s signature talk box as video images played a mix of early photos of Frampton and what could only be described as a dose of Monty Python-esque clips – always welcome viewing for my taste.
“I’ll Give you Money,” and “Do you Feel Like I Do” – all the favorites – were there plus some ground pounding instrumentals.
However the real star of the show came about halfway through.
Frampton told the crowd he’d met a young man in the UK a few years back who’d asked him to produce an album for him and with that he brought on young Davy Knowles, nothing short of a guitar phenom. Look him up; he’s going to be huge. Knowles possesses the voice of a blues master many years his senior and guitar skills on par with anyone on stage.
Knowles and Lester both did heavy back and forth duels with Frampton but nothing was more interesting than when Frampton did same with keyboard impresario Arthur. That dude did things with the keyboard I couldn’t imagine, but I saw it and heard it.
The night came to a close, they all took a bow and left.
We all knew there was going to be an encore, but owing to the demographic of the audience, about a third of the people were leaving as the band walked off stage. That’s fine, their loss.
Frampton returned with his lineup, plus reappearances by Knowles and Landreth. They lit into what became the single most incredible interpretation of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” I’ve ever heard (and I was never a fan of that song).
I was so moved by the rendition and artistry of each performer a few minutes into it that I looked around for any ushers, because the Kauffman is death on cameras. And then I videoed (for my own personal enjoyment only), two five minute segments in what must have been a 15 minute jam. The remaining crowd seemed more moved by that number than anything else in the set and for good reason.
I stand by my earlier assertions, there’s just no venue like the Kauffman Center in this city for that intimate concert feeling (outside of the Folly).
This was one of those shows you just can’t miss and I’m thankful I saw it.