Peter Frampton’s latest single is based on a personal experience of his that, much like the animated video that accompanid the 2017 tune, can be described in one word.
“It was surreal,” the iconic guitarist and songwriter said in a recent phone interview from Nashville, Tenn. “Early one Sunday morning, I heard this noise in the bathroom off of my bedroom. I have a balcony there with a window, and this very large bird — I think a teenager, because it had no sense of GPS — had flown right into my window, knocked itself out … (and was) lying on the balcony, very dazed looking, saying to me ‘help me.’”
“I Saved A Bird Today,” along with songs from Frampton’s solo career and his time in 1960s supergroup Humble Pie, will be fair game for his June 18 performance at the F.M. Kirby Center in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
Frampton’s visit to the Kirby Center will be one of the few intimate-venue stops he’ll be making without tour partner Steve Miller throughout the spring and summer.
“We played about four or five years ago in one of the amphitheaters, and it went so well, Steve and I got together and talked about it and said we should do … a package tour,” Frampton said.
Friends since they first crossed paths in London in the 1970s, the classic rockers will treat fans to their deep catalogs, but Frampton’s show in Wilkes-Barre will allow a bit more freedom than his 80-minute sets on tour with Miller.
“It’s a two-hour show. Sometimes a little longer. It’s a much deeper look at (my body of work). We get into the instrumentals from ‘Fingerprints,’” Frampton said of his Grammy-winning 2006 album. “We get into deeper cuts in general … a broader picking from every era of my career.”
But Frampton noted fans can expect to hear their favorites as well.
“We have to give the crowd the ones that brought me to their ears,” he said. “I’m not the kind of act that says, ‘I’m not doing my hits.’”
The celebrated guitarist paid homage to those hits in 2016 when he released “Acoustic Classics,” a volume filled with re-interpretations of some of his most-notable compositions, including “Show Me The Way,” “Lines on My Face,” “Baby I Love Your Way” and “Do You Feel Like I Do.”
His most recent release, however, was born not of nostalgia, but of reflection on his experience with his winged-visitor.
Wanting to help the bird, Frampton called animal control in Nashville and was instructed to leave the premises to let the bird get its bearings. When he returned, he found a seemingly healthy, but still grounded guest.
“I called animal control again, and the woman who was advising me said, ‘Tell me more about the bird,’” Frampton said. “So I described the bird, and she said, ‘I know what you have; you have an American coot.’ It’s one of a handful of birds that will only take off from water, not from land.”
With some difficulty, Frampton coaxed the coot into a box and brought it to the nearest river, where, after kicking him and the container, it executed a successful water take-off.
“I was alone, and it was night time, and I just thought, ‘I saved a bird,’” he said. “It was a great feeling.”
After discussing the experience with his writing partner, Gordon Kennedy, the ensuing song became not just an account of kindness toward a bird but also of compassion among all living beings.
“Gordon said, ‘What if you hadn’t done that? That bird wouldn’t be here,’” Frampton recalled. “He started saying we don’t care for each other any more. We’re rude to each other. And I came up with a piece of music.”
The guitar style Frampton puts forward on the single and “Acoustic Classics” is steeped in tradition, reminiscent of the gypsy jazz guitarists of the 1930s.
“It’s basically Django Reinhardt’s sound with my technique, not his,” Frampton said. “It has influenced me a lot over my entire life. Not that I have his dexterity or length of finger, but I’ve always been influenced by him.”
Whether he’s delivering the blues-rock of his early days, playing his hits, delving into the acoustic sounds of gypsy jazz or radiating the electric experimentation he helped pioneer, Frampton still revels in live performance — his iconic record “Frampton Comes Alive” still ranks among the best-selling live albums of all time and recently celebrated a 40th anniversary.
“I have to be in the moment to play my best,” he said. “Onstage, live, any advice I leave on the side of the stage. I try not to think at all apart from when I’m talking to the audience between songs. When I play, I try to turn it all off and let it happen. … I try not to say or play the same things twice apart from the guitar melodies that are part of the arrangement. I’m kind of a jazzer in that way. I don’t like to know what happens next.”