No Lou, no Mick … No Foreigner? NO WAY!
Despite the fact that original Foreigner founding member and guitarist Mick Jones was not on stage last Tuesday, July 26, at the Turning Stone Event Center was not indicative of Foreigner’s inability to turn heads, wow the audience and put on a huge rock show at its sold out shows wherever it is on tour. The band performs all the classic and top Foreigner hits flawlessly, never missing a beat, a lick or even a second of doubt. The seasoned band, most who have been with this current version of Foreigner for the greater part of the last decade play the music as it was most likely heard in 1983. Close your eyes and you would swear this is the original Foreigner. For all intents and purposes, it really is Foreigner with Jones still performing when he is able. Jones, who has been hit or miss as of late due to speculated health issues was surely missed at the Turning Stone show, however the band which he cherry picked to become the new generation of Foreigner, picks up in his absence in superb form. Especially Bruce Watson, who is handling Jones amazing and timeless guitar work on all the Foreigner classics from “Hot Blooded” to “Feel’s Like the First Time,” “Dirty White Boy” and more.
Foreigner, one of the world’s best selling bands of all time with worldwide sales exceeding 80 million records, formed in New York City in 1976 by veteran English musician Mick Jones and American vocalist Lou Gramm. The band’s debut album, Foreigner was released in 1977 and featured the mega-hits “Cold as Ice,” “Feel’s Like the First Time” and “Long, Long Way From Home.” This year marks the 40th anniversary of Foreigner and the band has currently been promoting the iconic success of the band with Foreigner40 merchandise from t-shirts to guitar picks and highlighting the milestone at every show. Jones has recently discussed, in a 2016 interview, a possible 40th anniversary reunion tour, featuring the Head Games era lineup. If a 40th Anniversary reunion tour becomes a reality and, “… hopefully feasible and possible to pull it off next year,” as Jones relates, It may include a line-up of original members including Lou Gramm, Ian McDonald, Al Greenwood, Dennis Elliot and Rick Wills.
At just a little after 8:00 p.m. with the Turning Stone Casino Event Center totally blacked out, the pre-show recorded music stopped and gave way to Foreigner’s dramatic opening score as drummer Chris Frazier entered stage left and greeted the exuberant crowd with a wave of his sticks before sitting on his drum throne. At the same time, entering from stage right was Foreigner’s multi-talented keyboardist Michael Bluestein who also gave the crowd a well received greeting gesture before settling down behind his rig. As the opening score continued to build, the other members of Foreigner walked on stage including Jeff Pilson, Bruce Watson and Thom Gimbel. Then in an instant the house lights went up illuminating the band as lead singer Kelly Hansen ran out on stage and the band immediately broke into their first number, “Double Vision”. The large crowd at Turning Stone was now on their feet screaming and singing along and did not have time to catch their breath before Foreigner went right into their second song, “Head Games”. At 55 years of age, Hansen shows know signs of getting too old to rock as he has the stage energy and moves that keeps the fans engaged and entertained at the same time. Hansen performs and sings all the classic Foreigner songs effortlessly, all while running, jumping, leg kicks and mike stand twirling like a twenty something year old warped tour rocker. He shows know signs of letting up and seems to perform each show like it was his first.
Foreigner continued throughout the night with Hansen engaging in the crowd to interact and engaged with the band and each other. Next on the set the multi-talented Thom Gimbel, who plays guitar, sax, flute, and backing vocals, moved in place behind a diamond plated piano case as Hanson reminded the crowd of this next song being heard “Maybe in their late twenties” and chuckled as he introduced one of the top hits of the 1977 album, “Cold As Ice.” As expected, as soon as Gimbel hit those unmistakable first notes of the hit song, the crowd at Turning Stone went absolutely wild. There was no letting up from the hit parade as Hansen talked briefly to the crowd telling them to grab their partner, lover or just find someone in the crowd to hold on to as he announced Foreigner’s 1981 mega-hit power ballad “Waiting for a Girl Like You” featuring the talented Bluestein on keys. Despite this being the digital cell phone era, there were actually a few old school lighters in the air for this one.
Foreigner had the audience highly engaged and up on their feet for the entire set. Kelly Hansen urged the crowd to move up to the front of the stage where there was no barricade. It was elbow to elbow in front of the stage and Hansen, the energetic crowd pleaser made the fans feel a part of the show by high fiving them, running out into the crowd during “Head Games” interacting with fans as he circled the floor before jumping back up on stage. In fact, all band members were certainly into the performance and not lacking for energy. One highlight of the show was an acoustic version of “Say You Will”. Hansen shared this was the idea of bassist Jeff Pilson who arranged the song acoustically which ultimately led to their successful unplugged album Acoustique: The Classics Unplugged. Again, with much reverence for the Foreigner classics, Hansen announced the next song in their set, the mega 1977 hit that launched Foreigner into the big-time “Feels Like the First Time”. And again, as expected the crowd was enthralled in the moment, with most of them bodies deep in front of the stage waving and extending their hands in the air hoping to grab a high five or catch a guitar pick from one of the band members.