Last Night: Peter Frampton and Doobie Bros. at Hard Rock

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Peter Frampton And The Doobie Brothers

Hard Rock Live

August 19, 2007

Better Than: The usual recycled vintage radio rock acts.

In a night that gave classic rock fans a double shot of live and loud, the question hovered over the crowd like a waft of pot smoke. Should Peter Frampton have opened for The Doobie Brothers or should it have been the other way around? Depends on how you look at it.

Frampton did, in fact, play openers to Sunday night's headliners, but for my money he was the sturdier of the two acts. It could be in large part because Frampton is arguably one of the only acts alive that has made a career out of a single live album, so seeing him live is like reliving the vinyl magic of "Frampton Comes Alive" (1976).

More than three decades since "Alive" was released, the guitar-songwriting wizard has lost his trademark golden blonde locks – they've given way to gray and balding – but the 57 year-old hasn't lost his technique. He can still get a crowd to sing along to every word of "Show Me the Way" and can switch from lead singer to lead guitarist in 0 to 60 seconds flat.

Frampton's energetic performances aren't just an act. The guy lives to play music. His shows aren't cut-and-dried and usually there's some experimental guitar work thrown in to show off his incredible collection of Les Pauls (Sunday night it was the instrumental "Boot It Up").

Fans came to hear the signature hits, but first they'd get a rocked out version of Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." Then it was on to the classic radio staples and the slow strains of "Lines On My Face." Frampton may not look the same, but there's no mistaking his voice. The crowd shouted back on "Baby, I Love Your Way," clumsy at times because of the guitar maestro trying to play lead riffs on an acoustic, which didn't really cut it. But it was the 20-minute "Do You Feel Like I Do" that whipped the crowd into a frenzy when Frampton showed off what's become his trademark "talkbox." He called out to the capacity crowd with an alien sounding voice emanating from the tube attached to the microphone – "do you feel like we do?" "Yeah" the crowd roared back in unison.

Of course, he got an encore and came back with a sweet and sensitive version of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."

After a brief intermission, one that saw roadies unveiling not one, but two major drum kits from the back of the stage, the Doobie Brothers were ready to claim their place as headliners.

This wasn't the Michael McDonald era Doobies (thank the classic rock Gods for that), but the original, rockin' Bay Area Doobie Brothers with Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons reigning over the singable radio hits like "Jesus Is Just Alright," "Rockin' Down The Highway" and the unforgettable "Black Water."

In their current incarnation, the Doobie Brothers have a lot of fire power. Two drummers on full kits, 3 guitarists (including Johnston and Simmons), a bass player (totally cool funkster Skylark who wore flip flops for his Hollywood, Fl., gig), keyboards and saxophone.

The Doobie Brothers came to blow the roof off the Hard Rock and they did. They dug deep to 1972's "Toulouse Street" playing "what they like to do best," said Johnston, "the blues" on "Don't Start Me Talkin'" along with 1973's "Dark Eyed Cajun Woman." Pure Doobie pleasure.

For an encore, they didn't just play any song or two, but saved some of the very best for last with "China Grove" and a wonderfully choreographed rendition of "Listen to the Music" with the four guitarists lining up side by side in front of the stage and hammering away at the chorus.

Come to think of it, this show didn't really have an opener or a headliner, just a heaping dose of nostalgia and a great night of rock 'n roll. – Michelle F. Solomon

Critic's Notebook:

Personal bias: The Doobie Brothers techs must have been schooled to distribute the sound in summer outdoor venues. Plenty of feedback and distortion plagued the first 15 minutes of the set in the indoor arena because it was just cranked up too loud.

Random Detail: Frampton joins The Doobie Brothers for only ten summer dates. The bulk of his busy touring schedule, which continues until early November, is in support of his 2006 all-instrumental album "Fingerprints."

By The Way: Frampton won a Grammy Award in 2007 for "Fingerprints." It was his first ever Grammy despite "Frampton Comes Alive" being the biggest-selling live album of all time. The Doobie Brothers have two Grammy Awards ("What A Fool Believes" and "Minute By Minute" won during the Michael McDonald era).

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