ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Thursday, July 17 was another perfect evening on the Verizon horizon to relive the days when we were more solid rockers than today. Gray hair and shiny pates were rife throughout the audience and on the stage, but we're all young at heart when Whoa-oh-oh, "We Listen to the Music." One could see the sunset in our eyes, but there's still a lot of living to do for both the Boomer performers and the listeners.
The Next Guitar God?
The Matthew Curry Band kaboomed the show off to strong start, keeping us between rock and a hard place. I could feel the thunderous bass rearranging my internal organs.
Peter Frampton had been asked in an interview if he thought we'd be seeing any more guitar gods. "Well, hell yes, of course! And Matthew Curry is one who will prove that to be true."
He has opened for greats such as Foreigner and Steve Miller, and he's getting rave reviews wherever he goes. They have a second album of original songs out on CD and on the hip new technology -- vinyl!
I was especially impressed with Mike Nellas' masterful work on the plain vanilla electric keyboard. He pushed that thing past the limits of the Hammond B3 almost to the Fox's Mighty Mo! Well done, sir!
They had more than a passing resemblance to the Allman Brothers with their bluesy groove. Curry may hail from Normal, Illinois, but his career should be anything but!
We Feel Ya!
Suddenly the recorded classic and contemporary rock that entertains patrons and roadies between acts unexpectedly shifted into classical symphonic music, swelling as the respective reds, whites, and blues of Old Glory and the Union Jack appeared on the video screen.
It was fitting symbolism for how we Yanks have welcomed the British Invasion, once we got that independence thing all sorted out. And with the gravitas of the monolith in "2001: A Space Odyssey" Peter Frampton's dearly beloved, formerly long-lost guitar descends between the flags.
It wasn't until after the concert that I learned the full story of why that guitar is so special to him. In 1980, all his equipment, including all his guitarsm, were loaded on a cargo plane, which crashed on take-off in Venezuela, killing all three aboard, and it was presumed that the payload was a 100% loss.
Back in 1970, he had been having trouble with too much feedback, so a fellow guitarist lent him his. It was light, with a slim neck that perfectly fit Peter's small hands. He declared it the greatest guitar he had ever played. He tried to buy it, but the kind owner made it a gift to him, and for ten years, he never played another guitar.
Gibson created a Peter Frampton Signature Model Les Paul for him, and he resigned himself to having that recreation until 30 years later, a guitar repairman (a Frampton fan) in Curaçao recognized the unusual three pickups as nearly unique, but combined with the burn marks on the neck, suspected that it was the very guitar that had been thought destroyed.
It turns out that someone plucked it from the burning wreckage and it found its way to a guy in Curaçao. The repairman begged him to sell it to him, but he held out for two years until he hit some financial bumps, and finally consented to sell it.
Unfortunately, the repairman didn't have that kind of coin, so he approached the CEO of the Curaçao Tourism Board, whom he knew to be a Frampton fan, as well. They made its return a sort of state visit and goodwill gift from their country. All's well that ends well. Who would have believed that three decades later he'd be reunited with his favorite guitar ever!
The Brit, who has been a long-time American resident, made his US citizenship official after 9/11. He still speaks in his native tongue, but lives more like John Mellencamp in America's Small-town Heartland.
He opened with "You Had to Be There" and the warm reception he received confirmed one and all were glad they were. Of course, he played his biggest all-time hits off his record-breaking (and venerably record-holding) "Frampton Comes Alive," which was the #1 live album in 1976 and still stands at #4, being certified Platinum six times.
He spoke of what a pleasure it was to be touring with The Doobie Brothers, as they had influenced him when he was just coming out of Humble Pie. He also offered words of praise and professional jealousy at 19-year old phenom Matthew Curry. "We hate him a lot, really!" Then added, "No, we welcome him as the future guitar god that he is."
Although the goldilocks of his heyday are long gone, his voice is almost completely unchanged, surely a result of his never screeching his larynx out as so many rockers have done.
He lulled us with the pensive "Lines on My Face," which was sweet and low with his signature entrancing chord changes while the video screen treated us to beautiful white doves flapping in slo-mo.
Then he kicked it up a notch, posing the rhetorical question: "I wonder how you're feeling." And guess what, we were all feeling just fine! I swear, that talk box never gets old. I was surprised to see that a rowmate had brought her 6-year old, but when he wasn't playing games on his iPad, his was shooting vid of Peter fooling with that squawk box.
"I'll Give You Money" had scales of justice, and dollars and pounds falling and spinning out of control on the screen. It pretty well described a common theme for young guns making a huge amount of money when they're on top, and then spending like it was always going to be coming in like that.
At one point he sniffed and said, "I smell popcorn. . . It used to be pot. . . Is that legal here yet?" He launched into a long bluesy ramble with some nice psychedelic kaleidoscope graphics and laid into "Do You Feel Like We Do?" As if we needed and prompting, huge letters spelled out the refrain for us. They do so love to see us get into it with them.
The two surprises in the setlist were a wonderful cover of "Black Hole Sun" and he took a long meander for an encore into "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." No tears from us -- only grins at how this former teen idol still hasn't lost that boyish charm and nimble guitarmanship that kept him at the top for so long.
Come to Jesus!
Jesus is still just alright with the Doobies, and they gave the Lord his due by starting out with one of their big hits. I don't know why they need two drummers, but they got 'em, and they laid down an extra-powerful backbeat for the mix of golden oldies and new stuff sprinkled in. They released their thirteenth album in 2010.
In contrast to most acts that play Verizon, they travel light, using only the house light rigs above and a backdrop with "The Doobie Brothers" emblazoned across it. They just bring their straight-forward brand of rock, hard rock, country rock, and heartland rock, and that's all that's needed.
They've had more personnel changes than the top ten rock groups combined, falling apart and coming back together again and again. Personally, I miss Michael McDonald, but they still sound like the Doobies that we have known and loved for more than four decades.
In my humble opinion, Marc Russo, who has been a Brother since 1998, was a clear stand-out. He is ever one Boogie Woogie Saxo Boy! He was often front and center -- deservedly so.
The latest incarnation was created in 2012: Tom Johnston on guitars, keyboards and vocals, Patrick Simmons on guitars and vocals, John McFee adds the occasional pedal steel and violin, John Cowan always rocks the bass guitar, with Guy Allison full-time on keyboards and Ed Toth and Tony Pia as the twin drummer boys.
"World Gone Crazy" reminded me of Frampton's song about money, talking about "Workin' real hard for the US dollar." And they are. Touring is not for sissies, so it's great for us to show them the love for all the years of memories they've brought us.
They brought us our old favorites "Rockin' Down the Highway," "South City Midnight Lady," and "China Grove." They gave us a special treat by singing "Georgia on My Mind" and sporadically substituting "Georgia" and "Atlanta" for Mississippi in "Black Water."
They signed off with "Listen to the Music," which we'll never stop doing. The Doobie Brothers will always be part of our Atlanta family!
For more about Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre and upcoming acts, visit www.vzwamp.com.