Paul Wilson: Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus @ Kauffman Center for Performing Arts

BLUE-ASH-15The Kauffman Center is famous for starting as soon as the second hand crosses the 12…

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.

Sonny Landreth

Sonny Landreth

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.



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11 Responses to Paul Wilson: Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus @ Kauffman Center for Performing Arts

  1. mike t. says:

    aw, come on paul. you can’t just write “the single most incredible interpretation…ever”, take some video of it and NOT share it somewhere. cruel.

  2. paulwilsonkc says:

    Mike T, email me, we’ll see if it can’t be “shared”. I have to add the DISCLAIMER, after all, it is The Kauffman who has me as their guest, I can’t buck their rules.

    • mike t. says:

      will do. meanwhile, just read your post about the concert and all of the comments. i have to say there are alot of excellent guitar players frampton has working with him… but one of the surprising ones is vince gill. if you haven’t seen him play, prepare to have your socks knocked off.

  3. paulwilsonkc says:

    Mike, I’ll be previewing and reviewing Gill at the Kauffman on the 8th. Looking forward to it. You can find me at

  4. kansas karl says:

    I can stop the unwanted taking of photos by about 95% of consumer level digital cameras and it’s cheap and easy.

    I was first aware of Landreth when he played with Jimmy Buffett, Little Feat and John Hiatt, his ability to play slide and then back it up with chords and harmonics is phenomenal. Listen to his playing on Hiatt’s “beneath this gruff exterior” particularly on the song “circle back”.

    Check out Vince Gill’s homage to Buck Owens and Merle Haggard’s Bakersfield sound. NPR did a piece on it.

    • mike t. says:

      ha… the rolling stones of country. thanks for posting the link. i’m looking forward to listening to it.

  5. PB says:

    Yes as Karl said, been a fan of Landreth’s ever since he was a part of Hiatt’s Goners on numerous tours/albums. IMO, second only to Ry Cooder (another Hiatt collaborator) as a slide player. Great set by him and his trio. Unfortunately, that momentum was all but killed by BB’s schtick-laden, monologue-heavy act. I knew what was in store as soon as he hit the stage as he’s basically devolved into the late career Louis Armstrong of the Blues, but thought the idea of being part of Frampton’s GUITAR Circus might shake him out of his slumber for at least a signature run or two on Lucille, but even Peter’s prodding couldn’t get him going. Heck, I think I played more guitar (albeit air) than BB the other night.

    Frampton on the other hand, was amazing. I knew his playing was stellar and underrated, but I was surprised on how great he still sounded vocally. The years have definitely been kind to his voice. And yes, Davy Knowles is the shit as I said in the earlier post about this show. Just 25 now, I was completely blown away when I saw him for the time at the age of just 19, fronting his band, Back Door Slam, as the opener for Gov’t Mule. In this, my third time seeing him, he has matured into perhaps the best young blues-rock slinger out there and I hope being a part of this tour helps spread the word about his talent. I only wish he had gotten his own full set instead of devoting an hour or so to the dinosaur that came before.

    Finally, the “While My Guitar Gently Weep” show closer was as great a guitar showcase as I’ve ever witnessed and that’s saying alot. To those that left and there were alot, wtf, you give all the rest of us old fcks a bad name.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Dead on PB, but that night was my FIRST intro to young Davy… I’m following up on that dude.
      I was there with my singer/songwriter wife; she’s the one who made the Trucks/Landreth comment about Landreth being better but Trucks; easier on the eyes.
      That, along with other “technical” comments that were over my head.
      She leaned over, well into Davy’s set, and made the remark, “incredible upper register but he’s not supporting it with his diaphragm enough, that could cause him some problems later…..”, or something like that. Like I know what THAT means.

  6. Irishguy says:

    I think I was the one who suggested you hear Sonny Landreth before you proclaim Trucks the undisputed heavyweight champion of the slide. Glad you did.

    But that was no put-down whatsoever of Trucks. He is great, no question. And I really don’t care which one is “better.” It’s like choosing between Candice Swanepoel and Bar Refaeli as to who the best Victoria’s Secret model is, then along comes Erin Heatherton.

    The world is filled with absolutely great guitarists. For your next assignment, and no, he doesn’t play slide, but does things with a guitar that heretofore were humanly impossible, try to catch Eric Johnson sometime.

    And if you want to catch an up-and-comer, watch J.P. Soars work his two-string cigar box sometime.

  7. Jesse Contreras says:

    I like the sound of ciccadas or locust or huichol music because it is all around…… but I need to work for that green back union dollar

  8. Balbonis Moleskine says:

    Had sex in the porto potties one year when Frampton played Barney Allis plaza about a decade ago. With a girl too! River Valley Festival.

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