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Humble Pie – Performance - Rockin’ the Fillmore

Review: 169
Date: 12 Mar 04

 


Rating: 5 Stars

Musicians:
Steve Marriott – Vocals, Guitar
Peter Frampton - Vocals, Guitar
Greg Ridley - Bass Guitar, Vocals
Jerry Shirley - Drums

Tracks Listing:
Four Day Creep
I'm Ready
Stone Cold Fever
Walk on Gilded Splinter
Rolling Stone
Hallelujah (I Just Love Her So)
I Don't Need No Doctor


 


Humble Pie, without doubt, was one of the best live acts on the scene in the early seventies. They built up one of the largest ever traveling group of supporters following them from gig to gig on their 22 tours of the U.S.A. Yes, that's right. 22 nationwide tours of the United States of America during their six year career – not counting the European tours. It was live when they were at their best.

On 'Performance' you can hear a band at the absolute pinnacle of their powers. It was recorded at Bill Graham's Fillmore East on their last appearance there in June of 1971, just two years after they had formed, and only a month before Peter Frampton left the band. He was a physical and mental wreck after trying to keep up with the rest of the band in their rock 'n' roll lifestyle off stage. However, this had no effect on his playing at this concert, which is truly remarkable considering the young Frampton was only 21 at the time.

Humble Pie was formed in 1969 mainly due to four young musicians feeling frustrated in their present bands. Steve Marriott had had enough of ‘The Small Faces’ with their overbearing management and inability to break out from being considered a pop singles band.

Peter Frampton (voted ‘The Face of 68’ by Teen Magazine) was having similar problems with his band ‘The Herd’ along with the musical aspirations of his band mates, although they included the admirable Andy Bown (now with Status Quo).

Greg Ridley was in ‘Spooky Tooth’, which was considered one of the most groundbreaking avant-garde bands of the early seventies. This was all very well as Greg certainly had the musical chops for his role. However, trouble was at heart as Greg just wanted to get out front and let it all hang out, letting his bass guitar thunder.

Jerry Shirley was the youngest of the band and had no real experience before the band, but was discovered by Peter Frampton and described as an up and coming John Bonham. Praise indeed, and very well merited.

After Peter Frampton had got up on stage with the 'Small Faces’ in 1968, Marriott had pleaded with his band mates to allow the young chap to join, but to no avail. So in 1969 he walked out to join forces with Frampton, finding the excellent rhythm section along the way. Don't forget that it took the other three from the ‘Small Faces’ two people to replace Steve Marriott and turn themselves into ‘The Faces’. The two new members were a certain Mr. Ronnie Wood and Mr. Rodney Stewart. And whoever heard of ‘The Herd’ again after their three Top 10 hits with Peter Frampton?

At first ‘The Pie’ got off on the wrong foot falling into old traps - releasing two albums of soft/pop/rock and having a hit single in ‘Natural Born Bugie’. Their Stage set consisted of two halves. The first was an acoustic set with the band sitting at the front of the stage - usually shoeless - singing twee little acoustic songs. (Unplugged years before its time). The second set was a more gutsy rhythm and blues set. However, they were dumped by record company IMSP because of non-existent record sales and a dwindling live audience. Manager Dee Anthony called a band meeting, where Steve Marriott was made official band leader and all acoustic and soft rock aspirations were put on hold. Their rock and rolling feelings were nailed to the mast.

A&M Records immediately snapped them up. They released two rock 'n' roll style Pie albums, the self-titled 'Humble Pie' in July 1970 which was followed by the aptly titled 'Rock On' in 1971. The band started gigging continuously, playing support to anybody who would dare having them like ‘Grand Funk Railroad’. They famously supported the band at both the Shea Stadium in New York and Hyde Park in London. All the while they were able to headline bigger and bigger gigs of their own. As Greg Ridley described them at the time: “we are like a little army primed for battle”.

The sales of their first two albums had been good, but not exactly earth shattering. So band management and record company decided to go for broke and release what had become the early seventies stock in trade for all major acts ‘The Double Live Album’. (This premise also worked remarkably well for Peter Frampton later in his solo career, when after years of obscurity he rocketed to superstardom on the back of his double live album ‘Frampton Comes Alive’. It is still the biggest selling live double album ever.)

While Eddie Kramer set up his recording equipment at the Fillmore West he caught ‘The Pie’ on what is popularly known as ’on night’. ‘The Pies' set for the Fillmore was made up of seven numbers. However, only one of which could actually be called a ‘Pie’ original, such was the band penchant for re-adapting the work of those they took influence of. After a brief announcement the band lead straight into their perennial opener Ida Cox's 'Four Day Creep'. Both the guitars of Frampton and Marriott belt out the riff before Ridley and Shirley come rattling in proving the rhythm section has become as tight and heavy as a Geoffrey Boycott forward defensive shot. Then Steve Marriott grabs the microphone imploring the audience with his first three lines…

‘I want you to love me,
Till the hair stands on my head,
Making me dizzy making me fell alright.’

This sets the standard for a hard rocking night. Before the Willie Dixon number ‘ I'm Ready’ (if you are going to cover somebody at least cover the best) you get some marvelous interaction between the voice of Steve Marriott, the guitar of Peter Frampton, and the audience. Band and audience bond before the rest of the band come in on the back beat and bring the house down. From here on out it's full on rock 'n' roll with ‘The Pie’ proving why they are without doubt one of the most fulfilling bands of their era.

'Stone Cold Fever' is performed with such fervor and relish that it proves the point that ‘The Pie’ was a live band. They leave the version from the studio album ‘Rock On‘ for cold.

The albums two centerpieces are 'I Walk on Gilded Splinters', originally by Dr. John, but ‘The Pie‘ stretch it out to a full 23 minutes and 30 seconds. It starts with a ‘Pie’ original beginning as ‘The Pie’, take the main riff and build upon it instrument by instrument, tone by tone, volume crank by volume crank, to a brutal climax of head banging delight. The whole thing is brought back to earth with the main theme slowly worked back into something Dr. John would recognize, before the whole band takes you on an adventure into the world of rhythm and blues. This proves that not only could ‘The Pie’ rock, but without doubt they were musicians of a caliber of any of their contemporaries.

Closing the set at the Fillmore is ‘The Pie’s‘ version of Muddy Water’s ‘Rolling Stone’. Again a fine hard rock vehicle for the band, wiping the floor with their previously released studio version. At the beginning of this 16-minute opus Steve Marriott sings ’I'm going to sing you a song in two parts‘ and, after the intro, goes into a highly amusing rap about life on the rock 'n' roll road of America. This is purely Steve Marriott, very seventies, very funny, and listening to it in this day and age wonderfully politically incorrect. ‘The Pie‘ brings the set to a rocking climax as they go into the second part of the song on eleven and bring the house down. The conclusion of 'Rolling Stone' is amongst the most exciting 5 minutes of rock 'n' roll ever recorded on tape. It is simply a matter of going for the throat. Musicians cannot learn to be this exciting, it's either in their blood or it's not. All four members of ‘The Pie‘ had about nine pints of excitement running through their veins.

The final two numbers we are given here are the encores. (Remembering ‘The Pie ‘ had to follow themselves here.) First we get 'Hallelujah (I love Her So)’, where Peter Frampton turns in a blistering solo and Steve Marriott enjoys himself immensely imitating Ray Charles.

Then the number which ‘The Pie’ turned into their own and would never be allowed to leave the stage without playing, Ashford/Simpson/Armstead's 'I Don't Need No Doctor'. This song’s title alone tells you everything about the band. The way the audience roars as the whole band pile into the song confirms its own story, 10 minutes of rock 'n' roll heaven with the band bringing the levels of excitement to those of the final 5 minutes of 'Rolling Stone'.

By the time this album was released in November 1971 Peter Frampton had left the band and been replaced by Clem Clempson. The band went on to record their next studio album ‘Smokin’, which went top twenty on both sides of the Atlantic. The band had many other high points before they disbanded in typical disarray in early 1975.

In 1991 Peter Frampton and Steve Marriott met up again with an idea of putting ‘The Pie’ back together again. However, this was tragically stopped when Steve Marriott was tragically killed in a fire at his house at the age of 41. Steve Marriott left behind a marvelous musical legacy not only with ‘Humble Pie’, but also with his solo work and with ‘The Small Faces.’ He was always 'The Artful Dodger' of British rock. I shall finish with his words from the stage before breaking into 'I Don't Need No Doctor' from the Fillmore stage.

‘We go home on Monday, but I gotta tell you, this time we have really had a gas, it's really been a gas.'

 

Pawed by Mott The Dog
Remastered by Ella Crew

E-mail: review@mott-the-dog.com


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