Night at the Circus

In the spring, I was planning my summer activities.  One of these would be to attend the Peter Frampton Guitar Circus.  It would be a blast from the past sort of thing in one part.  The other part was to see B.B King.  I’ve not taken an opportunity in the past to see B.B., but always wanted to.  This was going to be that opportunity.

I convinced Rich to go with me.  We had seen Frampton last year at Ravinia.  It was awesome.  The first half of the show as Frampton Comes Alive.  The second half was the music Frampton likes to play.  That made the second the one to hear.

After looking at the venue, I discovered that Two Brothers brewery was supplying the beer on site.  After some discussion with Rich, I decided to have Rick go also and be the DD for the return trip.  Rick said he was for it.  So I got online and got a ticket.

Friday afternoon came, finally.  I stopped work at 2:00 and started getting the guys in motion.  Chairs were gathered into the back of the car.  I found my paperwork for the tickets that we would be picking up at Will Call.  We hit the road a little after 2:30 for the trip down to Aurora.

The trip seemed to take forever!  Rush hour traffic had started and the way through most of the towns on our route were crowded.  In Batavia, we jumped from one road to the next that would take us down to Aurora.  One of our concerns had been about where we would park.  As we got down to the area of the venue, we saw signs for the public lots and event parking.  My plan had been to use the Metra lot.  As I got there, I was in luck.  An Event parking sign was posted.  It was only $5.00.

This was a good stroke of luck.  The lot is located across the street from the venue.  Also, Two Brothers Roundhouse restaurant is located on the backside of the lot.  We planned to have dinner at Two Brothers and then walk to the concert.

We were seated and drinks were ordered.  We looked through the menu and determined what we would have to eat.  Most of the brewpubs do what are called small plates.  These are like samplings of dishes instead of a full dish.  Rich and I picked a couple of eat as our dinner.  Rick opted for a burger and chips.  Rich finished his first beer and ordered a second and I got a sampling of another beer.  One of the people from the bar delivered the beers to us.  Not long after, our server brought the same thing.   She left it at the table free of charge sine they would only dump it out anyway.

After dinner, we headed to the car to collect our chairs and make our way to the gates.  We crossed the highway and joined the crowd on the sidewalk.  Immediately, we ran into a friend from work.  I hadn’t seen Sharon in a couple of years.  We talked quickly and then we moved on to pick up our tickets.  Rick’s was available in the first booth.  Rich and I went on to Gate 1 to pick up ours.

The crowd was all waiting at the last booth to enter the park.  We entered at Gate 1 where there was hardly anyone.  That was great.  Rich and I stopped at the beer bracelet booth.  You can’t get a beer without one.  Then we stepped up to find out where to sit.  It turns out that we were sitting in the benches.  This meant we didn’t need chairs after all.  The usher said we could sit anywhere, but the first 5 rows.  We found a row that gave us seats right at the very end.  We were only 13 rows from the stage.  How cool was that.

While waiting for the show to start, Rich and Rick went to check out the souvenir table.  Rich came back with a cool B.B. King shirt.  Rick hadn’t purchased anything yet.  I went in search so I could buy my own.  I also got a B.B. King shirt while Rick settled on a Frampton Circus shirt.  Well, it was time for the concert to start.  Rick and I got back to our seats and already had to scoot someone over to make room for all three of us.

The first act was Sonny Landreth.  I hadn’t heard of Sonny before seeing him on the bill.  He’s from Louisiana and plays guitar with the same Louisiana s sound as Tab Benoit.  Sonny was very good and had a great sound.  His band was very good also.  We saw Peter and his band come out to the side of the stage to watch Sonny.  They seemed to be enjoying the music and watching his technique.

Next up was what I had come to see.  The roadies rearranged the set for B.B. King.  The band tuned up and got started with the first tune.  There was a brass and horn section as well as the guitars and drums.  After the first song, B.B. himself was escorted to the stage.  For a man of 87, he moved pretty well.  He came out to great applause and took his seat.  After playing his seat and joking with the audience, he called for Peter to come to the stage.  He got Peter out there and they played, “The Thrill is Gone.”

B.B. would get to the end of a stanza and call for the band to play quietly.  Then he would turn to Peter and say, “But not you. Keep playing!”  Then he would threaten to cut guys from the band, even Peter, for not doing what they were told.  They went on like that for quite a while and we all laughed.  Pretty soon, B.B. finally had enough fun and ended his set.

While they changed the stage around for Peter and company to come on, we walked around.  The bench seats were not very full while the immediate seating outside of the benches and the grassy area further back were full.  The bathrooms were, of course, the hopping areas of the park.  Everyone seemed to be standing in line.

The show started up again.  Peter Frampton and his band came on.  I won’t bore you with those details.  But if the opportunity arises, the band and audience make it a great show.  After a couple of song, Peter brought on Larry Carlton.  Who, you ask?  Larry is the guitar player’s best guitar god.  Larry was absolutely wonderful.  A tall older gentleman, I had never seen Larry before.

Later, Rich did a search and it turns out that Larry has written many hit TV show songs, like Hill Street Blues, and is a session player on many, many albums.  I was surprised to find out that he played the guitar solo on Steeley Dan’s song, “Kid Charlemagne.”  As Frampton like to say, this was a circus and he was the ringleader.

The songs rolled out.  Peter brought out his son, Julian, to sing some tunes.  Julian’s pretty tall.  Peter joked about shrinking when his son was around.  Julian does a pretty fair job of singing.  He definitely did better when Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick came to the stage.  The second song was “Surrender” from Cheap Trick.  Rick threw what looked like an album cover out from the stage.  It sailed up, over the crowd, and headed right for Rich.  He put up his arm to protect his face.  He knocked the projectile to the ground and then scrambled to pick it up.  He handed it to me.

I tried to see the cover in the dark.  It was the Frampton Comes Alive cover from some 35 years ago.  Wait, it was signed.  The lights came up enough for me to see that Frampton and Rick Nielsen had both signed it.  Cool.  It felt like there was something inside.  Rich assured me it was just cardboard though.  Everyone around us were thrilled and sad that they hadn’t gotten it before Rich.  I sat holding the cover the rest of the night.  Kind of hard to clap when you have something you don’t want to drop.

Frampton finally got around to playing “Blackhole Sun,” which is Rich’s favorite song from the last concert.  It’s a pretty cool rendition.  The night’s music ended with a version of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”  I love this version.  In all, the guitar work was great.  The evening was fun, loud, and worth the effort.

So the show was over and it was time for Rick to drive us home.  After all, Rich and I had been drinking some really good beers during the evening.  We had only gotten part of the way home when Rick announced he had to stop.  However, no stores or restaurants were open.  It wasn’t even midnight!  We were close to my friend, Kim’s, place.  I texted her and she was still up.  We stopped by and Rick took care of his business.

We finally made it home.  Sascha was really glad to see us.  It was about 1:00 before I could fall asleep.  It was a good day though.

As a footnote:  Rich decided to get the cover framed with our tickets for his bar area.  We took it over to the shop we usually use for these things.  The guy was very impressed that we had Rick Nielsen signature.  We’ll get it back in 10 days.

Our view of the stage
Our view of the stage
B.B. King coming out on stage.
B.B. King coming out on stage.
B.B. and Peter Frampton doing "The Thrill is Gone."
B.B. and Peter Frampton doing “The Thrill is Gone.”
Rick Nielsen, Julian Frampton, and Peter Frampton on stage.
Rick Nielsen, Julian Frampton, and Peter Frampton on stage.
Frampton doing "Do You Feel Like I Do".
Frampton doing “Do You Feel Like I Do”.