The golden locks are gone. So are two band members -- and that no-shirt look. But Peter Frampton has the talk box, bassist Stanley Sheldon and a 14-minute arrangement of "Do You Feel Like We Do" to re-create 1976's blockbuster "Frampton Comes Alive" in concert.
It's the first time the veteran British rocker has ever done a tour to present "Frampton Comes Alive," which became the biggest selling album of all time (until topped two years later by "Saturday Night Fever") and remains one of the top-selling live albums ever.
"We enjoy doing it because quite a few of [the songs] we haven't done in I don't know how many years," said Frampton, 61, who performs Friday at the State Theatre with a revamped band that includes Twin Cities keyboardist Rob Arthur. ("Comes Alive" players Bob Mayo and John Siomos died in 2004.) "It sounds just like it did, but with the technology we've got today, I think it sounds better. And, of course, we're playing better. I think it's a better band."
Buoyed by the hits "Show Me the Way" and "Baby, I Love Your Way," "Frampton Comes Alive" transformed Frampton, a respected session guitarist who'd played on records by George Harrison and Harry Nilsson, into a pop star. He was the Farrah Fawcett of rock, whose goldilocks good looks landed him shirtless on the cover of Rolling Stone and in a starring role of the 1978 film "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," one of rock's legendary busts.
"The Rolling Stone cover I had no choice over," he said last week from Seattle. "The credibility [as a musician] was lost with 'Comes Alive' and the 'I'm in You' cover [the followup album, which bared even more skin]. And the capper to the Frampton demise, if you want to call it that, was 'Sgt. Pepper' -- all things that were very bad career moves."
By the by, Frampton discounts that his fluffy hair and image had much to do with his success.
"I don't think the hair had anything do with it," said the British native-turned-American citizen, who now sports a wisp of silver hair. "People bought 'Comes Alive' for the music. It wasn't until after that album that the image was perceived. The Rolling Stone cover started it. A musician's career is a lifetime but when that picture came out, it turned me into a pop idol. That kind of a career lasts 18 months."
Bowie's hand-picked guitarist
A decade later, the pretty-boy pop star started to regain musical credibility when David Bowie hired him to play on 1987's "Never Let Me Down" album and then as lead guitarist for that year's Glass Spiders Tour.
"That was a gift that David gave me," Frampton said. "We'd been friends since childhood. He'd been on a Humble Pie tour as our special guest but we'd never played together."
Frampton had known Bowie since their days at Bromley Technical School, where Frampton's father taught art and Bowie was one of his students. "I got to know him when I was 12 and he was 14, 15 maybe. I said, 'What music do you like right now?' He said, 'Buddy Holly.' I said, 'Teach me that.' I remember sitting on the stairs at lunchtime with two guitars and him and George Underwood -- who became the artist who did the covers of 'Ziggy Stardust' and 'Aladdin Sane' -- and the three of us would hang out and play Eddie Cochran and Buddy Holly numbers."
While in school, Frampton became the lead singer and guitarist of the Herd, being named "The Face of 1968" by a British teen magazine. The next year, he formed Humble Pie with Steve Marriott of the Small Faces and also did session work on albums, including Harrison's classic "All Things Must Pass." After five LPs with Humble Pie, he went solo in 1971, a career filled with ups and downs.
After touring with Ringo Starr's All Starr Band in 1997-98, Frampton got his guitar cred back with 2006's all-instrumental album "Fingerprints," featuring such all-star guests as Charlie Watts, Courtney Pine, Warren Haynes and Mike McCready. It earned Frampton his first Grammy -- "for not singing a note."
The guitarist made the album for himself, he said. "Then when they called my name out at the Grammys, it was pretty surreal walking up there. I said, 'Thirty years ago I was nominated for another album' and everybody laughed because they knew which one it was. 'I didn't get it for the pop star. That's why today I'm so glad to thank you for the Grammy for the musician.'"
Now, Frampton said, fans come to his concerts for the instrumentals as well as the vocal numbers -- "something I never, ever would have imagined."
For his current tour, there is no opening act. "Frampton Comes Alive" is the first set, then the second set includes instrumentals, covers, newer and older songs, and some Humble Pie pieces.
Said Frampton: "I held my breath whether after the intermission there would be anybody left to see the second set. But they're all there."
Jon Bream • 612-673-1719 Twitter: @jonbream