The Reverb Interview: Peter Frampton

Peter Frampton, seen here at Red Rocks in 2003, will play the Paramount Theatre on Tuesday. Denver Post file photo.
Peter Frampton, seen here at Red Rocks in 2003, will play the Paramount Theatre on Tuesday. Denver Post file photo.

Ask Peter Frampton if it feels like 35 years since his landmark live record “Frampton Comes Alive” came out and he’ll correct you.

“It’s actually 36 now,” Frampton said recently via telephone with a lasting laugh.

So it must feel like 35 — nay, 36 — years?

“Yes it does,” said Frampton, who brings his “Frampton Comes Alive”- themed tour to the Paramount Theatre on Tuesday. “Certain parts of the (36) years have flown by, and certain parts have inched by. It’s definitely sometimes hard to realize that that is me, way back then. Everything’s changed so much.

“(The record) is definitely something I’m obviously really proud of. It’s not a perfect record in any sense. It’s a live record. But some of the imperfections and audience interactions and the intense energy that comes off that record keep it fresh — and honest. It’s an honest record.”

That “honest” double LP released in early 1976 is a big one in the scheme of things: The home to “Baby, I Love Your Way” and a place in the books as one of the biggest live albums of all time. It makes for a popular show, as Frampton and his band will play the record in its entirety on Tuesday — along with a second set made up from selections from his Grammy-winning career.

We spoke with the British guitarist and songwriter about the psychology of delving into a 36-year-old live record night after night and the strangeness of this being one of the most successful tours in his late career.

Q: What surprises you still?

A: It never ceases to amaze me: I still get people saying, “I just played my 12-year-old son ‘Frampton Comes Alive,’ and he went out to buy all your records.” It’s a conduit to people picking up my entire career. And I never would have thought that. I thought I’d be an engineer in a studio now, producing other bands. But I’m not. And while I’d love to do that sometime, my passion is playing. And now it’s all so evident. We know why that album was so successful. It’s because of the passion I put into the playing.

Q: And you’re selling out dates and extending the tour, so clearly people are connecting with it?

A: It’s turned out to be one of the best tours I’ve done in decades. The two months starting with February, this wasn’t planned. This was by popular demand. So I think we ended up doing 36 more shows — and I thought we were done in November in Europe, but now promoters are calling and asking me to do more.

Q: Tell me about the show.

A: We do a three-hour show. It’s exhausting. We do “Comes Alive” first. We give everybody what they remember and what they want to see. And then we come back on doing what ends up being an hour and 15 (minutes) of new and older material: Humble Pie, “Fingerprints,” a couple covers that I’m known for doing.

Q: That’s a substantial show. Few people play that long anymore.

A: I don’t think I could ever play less than two hours again. An hour and a half isn’t enough for me to do a full representative show of what I’m about.

Q: How faithful are you and the band to the original live record?

A: The songs are the same, but we are a jam band between counting it off and the end of the song. I come from Humble Pie, and so it’s always been about improvisation. A lot of material at the drop of a hat can extend — depending on how inspired we are as a band that night. It carries from song to song. We’re not re-creating “Comes Alive.” We’re just doing that same set list again.

Q: So you’re not technically doing “Comes Alive.”

A: From the perception of the audience, we’re doing “Comes Alive.”

Q: Lots of bands have played their seminal records decades later, but this is interesting because it’s a live record — and also because you’re recording each show for release.

A: We record every night. And we sell the CDs every night — Abbey Road Live is recording them. People have to wait 10 minutes for the CD to be burned, and they walk away with the show, and people love that.

Q: That’s pretty meta — seeing a show based on a live album, and walking away with a new live album … based on the old live album.

A: Sure. I wouldn’t want to just do “Frampton Comes Alive.” That would not be pleasing to me. It would be locking me into — I would feel like an oldies act. But I’m not, I’m not an oldies act. I have an old record that was successful, but it’s an ongoing career — including a Grammy win for “Fingerprints” in 2007.

The British singer will bring his “Frampton Comes Alive” anniversary tour to the Paramount Theatre at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets, $44.50-$69.50, are available

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and executive editor of Reverb, the co-founder of The UMS and an award-winning critic and journalist at The Denver Post.