Some times you have to give in to nostalgia, which is why I found myself at a St. Louis area casino a few weeks ago to see Foreigner. A note had been left with our complimentary tickets letting us know that we were in for a good night of music. We were assured that although Foreigner guitarist/founder Mick Jones is the only remaining original member, these guys still put on a kick ass show that is worthy of the Foreigner name. And indeed, having seen the new lineup a year prior, I was very aware that this lineup of Foreigner, with veteran singer Kelly Hansen replacing Lou Gramm on vocals, did in fact have the goods. The rest of the Foreigner lineup in addition to Hansen and Jones fills out with veteran players that include former Dokken member Jeff Pilson on bass and vocals, journeyman drummer Brian Tichy, longtime multi-instrumentalist Thom Gimbel (with the band since 1995), and Michael Bluestein on keyboards.
Out of all of the bands touring with “replacement singers,” the revitalized Foreigner deliver an experience that is as close as you’ll come to seeing the original band “back in the day.” When I interviewed Night Ranger’s Jack Blades a few years ago, he spoke of playing a show with Journey after they added vocalist Steve Augeri, himself filling the big shoes of iconic vocalist Steve Perry. Blades watched the crowd sing the “nah nahs” in “Lovin’, Touchin’ Squeezin’,” and said that in that moment, “they didn’t give a shit who was on stage singing.” The statement from Blades is something that sticks with me and resonates when I see a band like Foreigner trying to carry on minus their most visible and well known member. The fact that they’re able to pull it off and present an experience that feels completely authentic is impressive. New music? They’ve cleared that hurdle as well with the release of last year’s Can’t Slow Down, a new Foreigner album that sounds like it could have been released in 1985.
As someone that didn’t really gravitate towards “classic rock” when I was growing up, Foreigner was one of the bands that really opened my eyes to the bombastically over the top stage show employed by so many bands in the ’70s and ’80s. Call it what you will, “corporate rock,” etc. – and I’ll acknowledge that there might be similarly theatrical bands of today, i.e. The Dillinger Escape Plan, Nine Inch Nails, My Chemical Romance and many others, but they don’t quite match the level of ridiculous excess that bands like Foreigner achieved on stage. (See also: ZZ Top, circa-Recycler, and that was the frikkin’ ’90s!) I took in two tour dates on the ’93 reunion tour that brought Lou Gramm and Mick Jones back to the same stage after some time apart (see also: Johnny Edwards, Unusual Heat and “Just Between You And Me,” one out of three ain’t bad). My eyes were witness to a stage littered with cars, and a giant inflatable jukebox during “Juke Box Hero.” The stars in my eyes were present and accounted for. Records had been one of my early purchases on compact disc, and those ’93 Foreigner dates made me want to finally dig deeper. Enter: Foreigner, Double Vision, Head Games, 4, Agent Provocateur – the necessary classics required for a growing Foreigner fan.
If I could travel back in time, I’d be at the Omni in Atlanta for this Foreigner show, recorded on tour in November of 1979. Two albums into their career, the band had already amassed an impressive selection of hits, “Long, Long Way From Home,” “Feels Like The First Time,” “Cold As Ice,” “Double Vision,” etc. With their newly released third album Head Games, Foreigner continued to add to the pile of hits with the title track and the newly introduced “Dirty White Boy.” To date, Foreigner have sold more than 17 million copies of these three albums, so if you’re drawing a blank, head to your local thrift store’s vinyl section and fill in the blanks.
What made those albums instant (and yet debatable) classics goes beyond the hits, because the album tracks, like “Rev On The Red Line,” “Headknocker,” “Starrider” and “Love On The Telephone” were pretty damn good too. Witness the riffing from guitarist Mick Jones on the eleven minute version of “Headknocker,” and perhaps you too, will believe. You will also likely be compelled to put on a headband and spend a bit of time sneering into the mirror, as you play your non-existent axe. Yep, you’re stone cold busted, check it and see.
While the crime police is out and about, let’s bust another offender as found in the comments section for this show on Wolfgang’s Vault. In the comments, our anonymous friend shares this questionable bit of misinformation when discussing the Foreigner show that he/she saw last August:
Ex-Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Jones can still bring the fire with his axe.
Uh, not quite. That would be Mick Taylor that played with the Stones, and as far as I know, he’s never ever been caught “Waiting For A Girl Like You.” But I’m sure that perhaps he might have put “I Want To Know What Love Is” on a mix at some point during the ’80s. It was the ’80s, after all, a time when everybody liked a good power ballad or three.
Just to make sure that we have it straight, let’s take a look at some pictures:
Mick Taylor, not Mick Jones:
Mick Jones, not Mick Taylor:
The above picture was taken at a recent open-mic night where Mick Jones got up to sing “Do You Feel Like We Do” by Peter Frampton, before autograph-seekers started hounding him to autograph their Jack Nicholson memorabilia. Actually, none of this happened.
Enjoy this hot night in Atlanta with Foreigner, which goes mighty nice with a full bottle of bourbon, a two liter of Coca-Cola and a couple of packs of smokes. If it feels alright, maybe you can stay all night. Should I leave you my keys?
Listen to this entire show at Concert Vault by clicking here.