My review of the new Humble Pie box set, Performance – Rockin’ at the Fillmore: The Complete Recordings is up at PopMatters.
When they left the studio for the stage, Humble Pie became something different altogether. Freed of the strictures of three minute long radio-friendly material, the four musicians came into their own. No longer was it Frampton extracting pop melodies from Marriott’s heavy R&B sensibilities, or Marriott dragging Frampton into a blues framework on a track-by-track basis. As this recording shows, their live partnership wasn’t a capitulation of one’s style to serve the other’s needs. It was two artists constantly pulling away from each other, with the tension of their inherently different approaches held in equilibrium by the rhythm section of Ridley and Shirley. Jerry Shirley’s ability to both pound heavily when playing blues and to sit off the beat for a jazzier feel allowed him to buttress whichever guitarist had stepped to the fore. Greg Ridley’s bass playing was limber yet solid like Shirley’s drums, and alternated that support role with the drummer like one instrument. Their fluid approaches to rhythm let Frampton and Marriott follow where their muses took them without sacrifices from either frontman.