Peter Frampton – Never Ever Say Never Tour-Mayo Performing Arts Center – Morristown, NJ

Peter Frampton – Never Ever Say Never Tour 

Mayo Performing Arts Center – Morristown, NJ – March 13, 2024

Review & Photos – Rebecca Wolf

As Peter Frampton entered the stage at Mayo Performing Arts Center, with the assistance of a cane, and still unsteady on his feet, it was easy to assume this was a frail man….maybe one past his prime. However, what Frampton demonstrated during the following 2 1/2 hours was anything but fragility. Rather, Frampton displayed immense resilience, dedication and passion, in addition to his still phenomenal guitar and vocal abilities. 

 Frampton’s more than 50 years in the music industry have been a roller coaster of highs and lows. A singer, songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire, Frampton formed the English rock band Humble Pie, with Steve Marriott in 1969. Humble Pie achieved some commercial success and released four albums before Frampton departed in 1971 to pursue a solo career. While Frampton released four albums between 1972 and 1975, he hit the pinnacle of his career in 1976 with Frampton Comes Alive!, the best-selling album of the year and one of the best-selling live albums of all time. The album contains three singles, each reaching the top 15 on US charts, “Show Me the Way“, “Baby, I Love Your Way“, and “Do You Feel Like We Do.” The success of the album, along with Frampton’s rock-n-roll good looks, helped make him a superstar. However, while Frampton’s 1977 follow-up album, I’m In You, went platinum and included a hit title single, it did not reach the same meteoric heights. 

Frampton continued to record music during the remainder of the 70s, despite suffering a near-fatal car accident in 1978. In 1980 he was hit with another setback when the cargo plane carrying all of his guitars crashed in Venezuela. All of Frampton’s instruments were believed to be destroyed, including his custom black Les Paul, which he’d named “Phenix.” Almost 32 years later, in an unbelievable twist of fate, Phenix was recovered and returned to Frampton in December 2011. Now 13 years later, Frampton performs with Phenix at every performance. 

While Frampton never returned to the peak he reached in ’76, he continued to release music, tour and collaborate with musicians, often rock and roll’s elite, from the 1980s through the 2000’s. In 2006, he released his 13th studio album and first instrumental album, Fingerprints, which earned a Grammy Award in 2007 for Best Pop Instrumental Album. In 2014, Frampton released Hummingbird in a Box: Songs for a Ballet, followed by 2016’s Acoustic Classics, and All Blues, in June 2019, which debuted at number one on Billboard Top Blues Album Chart. However, 2019 was also when Frampton announced his retirement from touring, sharing his diagnosis of Inclusion Body Myositis, a degenerative muscle disease. Although Frampton believed he’d no longer be able to perform, a special event in August 2022 brought him back to the stage. As Frampton played from the comfort of a chair he realized performing seated would be possible. And, while Frampton has expressed his fingers don’t work like they used to, he’s able to play better than he expected. In 2023, Frampton returned to the road for his Never Say Never Tour and was immediately embraced by the audience. The uplifting audience energy, combined with Frampton’s resilience and never-give-up attitude has now brought him back for 2024’s Never Ever Say Never Tour. 

It was this positive energy that Frampton brought to the Mayo PAC stage on March 13th. The evening opened with “Golden Goose,” from 1974’s album What’s Happening, followed by “Lying,” from 1986’s Premonition, and Humble Pie’s “Shine On.” While these numbers may not be as familiar to those with less knowledge of Frampton’s full catalog, many in the crowd were obviously well-versed in Frampton’s decades of work. From the start of the performance it was clear sitting in a chair did not mean Frampton was immobile or lacked energy. He displayed incredible passion in his movements as he leaned back to forward and side to side, while playing guitar.

Addressing the attentive crowd Frampton shared, “It’s a dream come true for me to still be on the road. After the Never Say Never Tour  it’s a dream to still play guitar!” Cheers rang out through the theater. “We looked through the catalog to see what we were going to do. It’s not Free Bird,” he said with a laugh. “So, you don’t have to say it!” However, that didn’t stop a jokester from yelling “Free Bird” and giving Frampton a laugh. “Whipping Post,” another fan suggested and Frampton laughed again. “Well, I’ve had the honor of sitting in with the Allman Brothers twice. Now, what was I going to play?” Frampton said with an amused chuckle. “I’m old! Oh, it’s “I’ve Got My Eyes on You,” he said as the band began to perform this gritty, powerful number from 1973’s Frampton’s Camel. Not sounding old at all,  Frampton played like a youthful rocker.

Referencing the 1980 plane crash, Frampton spoke about the beloved guitar in his hands and its return after almost 32 years. “Never say never,” a fan from the crowd shouted. “You’re right,” Frampton replied. “Never say never!” Performing a beautiful guitar solo, the crowd cheered as Frampton began playing the melancholy opening bars of 1973’s “Lines on My Face.” When the song came to an end Frampton spoke to his guitar player, Pat Ferguson (who joined for this tour) who’d moved center stage. “It’s nice to have you so close. You’re never this close,” he said with a grin. “See, we’re talking and we aren’t supposed to because then we’ll be here til next Thursday!” the crowd cheered at the thought of having Frampton play for a week. As the band began to perform “Show Me the Way,” showcasing Frampton’s still incredible skills on the talk box, audience members raised their hands in the air and danced in the aisles.

“I have to talk to you,” Frampton said to the crowd. “A little while ago I let out a scream, a manly scream. I got nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.” Cheers and thunderous applause filled the theater. “If you’ve been to my shows you know how I am about phones. But, everyone take out your phones and you can scan the QR code on your postcards. We’ll wait. Go ahead, do it,” he laughingly urged the crowd. The 5×7 postcards given at the theater entrance had Frampton’s photo on the front and a scan code on the back. The code brought fans to the voting for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees. With the voting complete the amusement continued as Frampton put all the seat numbers in a hat, picked one out, and called the winner to the stage to receive a signed album. “I’ve been in a good mood all day,” Frampton enthusiastically shared. “Except when I woke up. But, I feel much better now. It’s you!” he exclaimed, to the cheers of the crowd. 

Frampton’s mood remained playful as he shared with the crowd that the band was doing a competition for the best audience on the tour.  He encouraged fans to make the most noise possible at the end of the next song in order to win. “I’m not going to remind you, you just have to do it,” he said. “We’ll see what you can do!” “The Crying Clown” from 1974’s self-titled album opened with a quiet, sentimental tone, before transitioning into a louder, more powerful number. As the song came to an end the audience passionately cheered and whistled. “Who could beat that?” Frampton praised the crowd. “I’m going to say number one audience right here!” 

 The 2 1/2 hour set showcased Frampton’s ability to cross genres and make songs his own as he passionately played an instrumental cover of Ray Charles’ “Georgia (On My Mind),” as well as an explosive, instrumental rendition of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.” Additional songs in the evening’s repertoire included “I Wanna Go to the Sun,” from 1974’s Something’s Happening, as well as, “Baby, I Love Your Way,” “All I Want to Be (Is By Your Side),” “(I’ll Give You) Money,” and “Do You Feel Like We Do, all from Frampton Comes Alive!. This final number culminated like the finale of a fireworks display, with crashing cymbals, flashing lights, a crescendo of music, and audience members whistling, hooting and applauding. “What normally would happen when I was standing was we’d leave the stage. Now, it takes me a half hour to get on and off stage,Frampton said with a broad smile. “We thought it would be better during this time to hear you make some noise,” Frampton said to the crowd, who responded with hoots and cheers. 

“How about some Humble Pie!” Frampton shouted as keyboard player Rob Arthur began to sing the opening of “Four Day Creep,” with a powerful, gravely voice. Bass player Alison Prestwood sang the second verse with warm, rich vocals, before Frampton joined in, a speed demon on the guitar and continued rocking during “I Don’t Need No Doctor.” The number ending with drummer Dan Wojchihowski performing an incredible, lightning-speed solo. 

 Just as it appeared the show had come to a close, Frampton, sitting on the darkened stage was suddenly lit by a purple spotlight and began playing his guitar. As the audience began to recognize “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” cheers spread through the theater, the stage became bathed in bright, vibrant light and the band joined in. With the entire audience on their feet, the evening ended in a beautiful musical moment. “What I have going on here is only something you can give me,” Frampton said with joy. “The adrenaline keeps me going! I have some problems with my leggies but when I sit down in my chair and pick up my guitar my fingers know what to do!” While we all know the power of music, it’s Peter Frampton’s resilience, dedication and passion that have helped mold him into the stellar musician and inspiration he continues to be.