Sometimes when I can't sleep I mentally try to work out the best gigs I've ever been to (if you're asking, Rammstein at Manchester Apollo, Skynyrd at London's Town & Country Club and Queen at Maine Road in Manchester spring to mind) and sometimes I think about the best guitarists I've had the pleasure of seeing (Steve Lukather with Paul Rodgers, Nils Lofgren in solo mode and many others) but now after a quarter of a century of gig going I've experienced both in one night. To put it simple, this evening was utterly and spellbindingly mesmeric. For a man of his advancing years to put on a two and a half hour show is incredible. For every one of those minutes to be essential is a very real accomplishment.
It would be fair to say that when myself and my eldest entered the arena formerly known as the MDH about thirty minutes before show time that the place wasn't exactly packed and those that were there seemed a tad lost about how to get in and out of the room, however, by the 8:15 start time the place was rammed full and nobody could have left disappointed. From the moment Frampton and his band ambled onto the stage until the final note of While My Guitar Gently Weeps this was a special evening.
One of the things that made the evening so special apart from the unbelievable musicianship on display was Frampton's engaging self-deprecating personality. At one point when dealing with a heckler in the crowd he mused how he'd lost control of the stage and some of the stories he told about the songs were highly illuminating.
The set took in the whole of Frampton's illustrious career with songs from that album liberally spread throughout. Early on there was a large cheer when Frampton announced that he'd be back in November for the Frampton Comes Alive 35th Anniversary show – hopefully in a larger venue. He played a few tunes from the Grammy award winning Fingerprints CD, the pick of which was Float and he played a sizable chunk of the excellent Thank You Mr. Churchill album of which he was touring in support.
The three elements of the evening which really shone through were firstly how relaxed and genial a stage presence Frampton has. The set was littered with insightful stories about the songs and witty asides. Secondly the backing band was astoundingly good, probably the best I've ever seen. Rob Arthur was on keyboards and guitars with the occasional lead vocal thrown in, Dan Wojciechowski played with both power and feel all night whilst second guitarist Adam Lester can be praised no higher than it being said that he was in no way overshadowed by his leader. Perhaps the biggest cheer of the evening, however, came when Frampton introduced the only other surviving member of the Frampton Comes Alive album, bassist Stanley Sheldon who was a benign presence throughout the set.
Of course the hits came out to play; Show Me the Way was early as was Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours. Do You Feel Like We Do was utterly magnificent to complete the main part of the set which led to the encore of I Don't Need No Doctor and the aforementioned While My Guitar Gently Weeps which ended possibly the best performance I've ever seen. One of the gauges of concert enjoyment is whether the audience was left wanting more and I know I was. When songs like Lying from 1986's Premonition and Mr. Churchill's I'm Due A You as well as the classics I'm In You and Something's Happening didn't get an airing you know that there must have been something special in their stead.