Guitarist Peter Frampton ascended to a rarefied level of idolatry not reached by even the most popular of rock stars while posing the question, “Do you feel like I do?” Forty years after the lyric closed the decade-defining album “Frampton Comes Alive,” he’s still interested in the answer.
When Frampton joins longtime friend Steve Miller at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood on Friday, July 14, his set list will lean heavily on his hit 1976 album, including top-selling singles “Show Me the Way,” “Baby I Love Your Way” and the full 14-minute version of “Do You Feel Like We Do,” as well as deep cuts “Something's Happening” and “Lines on My Face” and “(I’ll Give You) Money.”
But Frampton also has a new song, “I Saved a Bird Today,” based on a literal moment in his life, in which he and songwriter Gordon Kennedy later discovered a metaphor for the emotions he fears people do not value enough anymore, beginning with empathy, humility and kindness.
“The line in the song that gets me every time is, ‘To care for one another is the reason we are here,’ ” Frampton says by phone from his home in Nashville. “There’s not enough of that going on.”
Frampton tells the story of finding a “giant bird” looking back at him one Sunday morning, stunned after flying into his balcony window. He called a local wildlife rescue group and was told the bird would fly off once it recovered. Hours later, the bird, looking healthy, remained on the window ledge. He made another call to wildlife experts who deduced from a description of the bird that Frampton was looking at an American coot, one of the few birds that can only take flight from water. Did Frampton have a river nearby? they asked.
Following instructions, Frampton put a towel over the bird and, with some struggle, got it into a cardboard box. A short drive later with the uncooperative bird, Frampton was standing in 18 inches of the Cumberland River, and after opening the box, he watched the bird skip across the water and into the sky.
“Gordon was the one that said, ‘I wonder how many people would have done that, went to the lengths that you went to,’ ” Frampton says. “And I said, ‘Well, I hope everybody would do that.’ And then it dawned on us, where we’re at in this world right now. We’re lacking compassion and caring and love and peace and civility to each other. Because it seems that, especially right now with the political situation in this country, which is affecting the world, it doesn’t matter anymore.”
Co-written with the Nashville-based Kennedy, who also wrote lyrics for "Change the World" by Eric Clapton, “I Saved a Bird Today” was released in March. Frampton says an animated video for the song was just completed.
Frampton and Miller have been friends for nearly 50 years. They met in 1970 when legendary producer Glyn Johns invited him to London’s Olympic Studio (where Johns mixed seminal music by Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, the Band and Frampton’s Humble Pie) to watch Miller record his debut album. But do not expect a segue from “I Saved a Bird Today” to Miller’s hit “Fly Like an Eagle” at Hard Rock Live.
Frampton, who once lived with his wife and kids in a “very nice apartment” on Fort Lauderdale’s Galt Ocean Mile in the 1980s, sounds like he’s just happy to be onstage with a talent that has always left him in awe.
“I come out after our show, and I sit in with Steve for two or three numbers, depending on how we’re feeling that night,” Frampton says. They choose from a revolving menu of music, but what he is certain of is that the music will be blues and the focus will be on Miller.
“I basically just play guitar and let him do the singing. He’s just too good. I might start singing a little bit [on the tour], but his voice is a little bit intimidating to me,” Frampton says, laughing. “Always has been.”
Steve Miller and Peter Frampton will perform 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 14, at Hard Rock Live at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, 1 Seminole Way, in Hollywood. Tickets cost $43-$175. Call 800-745-3000 or go to MyHRL.com or Ticketmaster.com.