Peter Frampton Plays Ring Master

July 22, 2014 |
Peter Frampton opens for Deep Purple at Le Zenith on October 20, 2013 in Paris, France. Photo: David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images

Peter Frampton opens for Deep Purple at Le Zenith on October 20, 2013 in Paris, France.
Photo: David Wolff – Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images

Forget about Ringling Brothers’ “Greatest Show On Earth!” Peter Frampton’ Circus — his Guitar Circus, to be precise — is much more bad-ass with its guitar-shredding virtuosos like B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Robert Randolph on board.

Now in its second year, Frampton says the concept for the tour-in-three-parts grew simply out of “woodshedding on an idea” with his manager Ken Levitan for something to follow the 2010-11 Frampton Comes Alive 35th Anniversary Tour. Says Frampton, the reaction to the that tour was so overwhelmingly positive that they “decided that we had to do something thematic so that I could compete with myself… and to have something that was a little bit more interesting than just another Peter Frampton concert.” Frampton explains that he simply “wanted to have as many guitarists as (we) could possibly have on the stage” for the next round of shows. Levitan came up with the name. The rest is legend.

Frampton is as thrilled about the show’s lineup as any of his fans might be, and he credits B.B. King for the long list of A-listers that made appearances along the way last year. “We put the idea out there…and lo and behold, immediately the first call that we got back was from B.B. King,” he says.

After that, Frampton says the phone was “ringing off the hook” with interested artists like Vince Gill, Robert Cray and Kenny Wayne Shepherd — guitarists in every genre from jazz to pop. Frampton says that the plan with the Circus was to celebrate “guitars in general,” and so the abnormal lineup of legends was more than welcome. It also has the effect of providing a chance for fans to see something new at each show. Last year, says Frampton, “(Jazz legend) Larry Carlton and (Cheap Trick’s) Rick Nielsen played with me on the same night, and you can’t get more different than those two.”

Frampton’s 1976 album Frampton Comes Alive, which spawned such hits as “Baby I love Your Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do,” is one of the top best-selling live albums of all time. Though famous for his heavily synthesized sound, the ideology of diversity associated with the Guitar Circus tour has bled over into other arenas of his career. His most recent album, Hummingbird in a Box (released June 2014) was actually written with long-time collaborator Gordon Kennedy as a performance piece for the Cincinnati Ballet. Much like while jamming on stage with music’s biggest superstars, when writing music for dance Frampton says, “the rules go out the window. Because you’re not writing for radio… it can be whatever I want at any given point.”

This as opposed to constantly conforming to the rigid production standards of radio-ready music. Which employer would you prefer?

The August 31 show at AVA Amphitheater marks the end of the first leg of the 2014 Guitar Circus tour and Frampton promises that the guys that night will be “going out with a bang.” It seems Frampton himself is as pumped for the Tucson show as anyone. Since scheduling often prevents multiple big names from showing up to play at every stop on the tour, Frampton says that having King, Guy, Randolph and himself all at the same show is “pretty heavyweight… to get them all together in one night is a coup.”

Lucky us. A word of advice for concert goers: bring earplugs with you if you don’t want your head to explode.

Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus comes to Tucson’s AVA Amphitheater, 5655 W. Valencia Rd., on Sunday, Aug. 31 at 6 p.m. Tickets and more info available at and


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Category: MUSIC