Venue: Nokia Theatre Times Sq. (New York, NY)
Label: Rhino Entertainment
It’s pretty funny but when I think back upon all of the shows that I have attended over the course of my life it seems that not once did I ever catch the band Foreigner when they were first reaching their zenith. I was primarily surprised about this based on my loving so many of the bands tunes and how could this not be the case when popular radio during the late seventies, eighties and even some of the nineties always found their classics in regular rotation. Back in the day it was not uncommon to find the deejays playing the radio listening public a “block” of Foreigner greats or a particular album side and believe me, no one was complaining about it. The band while formed in 1976 has changed quite a few members and only finds founding guitarist/songwriter Mick Jones in place as he continues to lead the charge of the bands music with fresh talent. In 2009 Foreigner consists of Jones of course and now Kelly Hansen (vocals), Jeff Pilson (bass), Thom Gimbel (guitar), Brian Tichy (drums) and Michael Bluestein (keyboards). Many of the followers of the eighties Hard Rock and Metal remember Pilson from Dokken and Hansen from Hurricane. These stalwarts of Hair Metal would be joined by drummer Brian Tichy (who I remember from working with Billy Idol and Derek Sherinian most recently) and Thom Gimbel and Michael Bluestein who handle second guitar and keyboards respectively. Clearly the classic material of Foreigner would be in excellent hands with these musicians.
The show tonight was at The Nokia Theatre in Times Square and unfortunately would be a seated affair which meant that less rockers were going to be getting inside the venue, and also in some sense a little less rocking would be done since many would opt to sit in place as opposed to getting up and down from their seats. Granted the fan base of a band like Foreigner would largely be an older one but I like to think that if the option was given that some positive response would have been given to a general admission floor area. I know if I was in the band I would not like looking out at faces that were sitting staring back at me instead of jumping up and down while I kicked ass on a popular tune. Oh well, this happens I guess. They would have no opening acts at the show which I found a little depressing because a powerhouse outfit like Foreigner could have easily given some young up and coming band a good amount of exposure by putting them on the bill for these shows. It also makes the ticket price all the more acceptable.
They kicked right into gear with the opening tune which was “Double Vision” and their sound was rather impressive and of course very tight. It was too early to move around a bit in terms of the audience it seemed but that was going to change as the night went on. “Head Games” was next and Kelly was proving to be very adept at the melodies once sung by the bands original singer Lou Gramm. Granted he is not a vocal clone like we find Arnel Pineda in Journey coming off as but he was really doing a great job and was keeping my interest right from the start. When “Cold As Ice” began it was clear to me that we were going to be enjoying a night of hits more than anything else and I had to say that I was rather fine with this being the case. During the song Mick would step over to a second set of keyboards and accompany the band there. Kelly was all about asking the audience if they were here to rock tonight and everyone responded in kind but they did slow it down for a couple of minutes to deliver “Waiting For A Girl Like You” which remains one of the better ballads in Rock music history. From here we were treated to the sole number from the bands new release “Can’t Slow Down” ; it would be the albums title track that was featured and pretty much would be the only recent song leaving the rest of the night to the classics. It surprised me a little since there was one new track on their recently released Anthology piece called “Too Late” which was the first new music from the band in over a dozen years and not all that bad a tune. In the end I wouldn’t mind because I wanted to enjoy as many of the greats as possible this evening. It would be followed by one of my own very favorite numbers, “Dirty White Boy”, which is a tune that still resounds with the power that it first impressed me with today as it did back then.
Before they would do “Say You Will” they made it a little bit of an “almost acoustic” intro that worked out very well and then it was into one of the legacy numbers with “Starrider” before Mick would give us some official introductions to the musicians joining him onstage as the current lineup of Foreigner. He spoke of the original band being formed about thirteen blocks away and then mentioned how two of the legacy lineup were in the audience tonight with Ian McDonald and I believe also Al Greenwood. While it would have been cool to see this happening, the guys did NOT join the band onstage and jam but instead only waved to the crowd when their names were mentioned and stayed in the audience. “Urgent” had a lot of people singing along and this led us into a keyboard solo from Michael Bluestein and drum solo from Brian Tichy. Each was doing some really cool stuff up there but this didn’t seem like the type of crowd that was interested in solos and instead wanted to hear more tunes. Oh well, at least these gave Kelly, Mick and Thom and Jeff a few minutes of breather before they came back loaded with more Rock and Roll. “Jukebox Hero” found me thinking that the night was almost at an end and they played an incredibly long version of it and also one that still included the segue way of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” in the middle. That surprised me since I felt this was only something the band was doing when Jason Bonham (son of the Zep’s legendary John) was on the drum kit and now with him touring again with his own band Bonham, felt it was slightly out of place and didn’t make much sense. That would be the closing tune as the band said their goodnights, but you knew that encores were coming.
After what seemed like only five minutes, the guys were back out onstage and delivering three incredible numbers with “Long, Long Way From Home” which is another tune I love to death and a great sing along with me NYC during “I Want To Know What Love Is” that found Kelly stepping aside from the microphone a couple of times to let the now standing audience sing their hearts out. It would close up with “Hot Blooded” and this was one hell of a finale and I noticed how many people who were sitting in various places all made their way down to the floor to be right up against the stage and singing with fists pumping into the air. One could see by the smiles of the band that they loved this and there wasn’t a face around me that was not smiling and singing along. The guys tossed out their guitar picks which is always cool to see done at a show and Brian did the same with his drumsticks. All in all this was a very entertaining night but it was so early in its end time that I think it left a lot of people screaming for more. I was happy that I finally was able to add Foreigner as a name to my concert attended book and even more so based on how much fun I actually had. As I left I saw a friend who was slightly disappointed about the need to play only the hits but then again he also is not crazy about their new album and this is a touchy point that many bands that have a historical body of work like Foreigners behind them have to face. For many groups, the new material will NEVER live up to the past greats when it comes down to it in the audience eyes so we as fans need to stand by them and support the new releases and only hope that their shows continue to deliver the tunes we hold so close to our musical hearts more than any of their later stuff. It’s a give and take at the end of day and believe me there was no one arguing about how the set list was put together tonight. Excellent work guys and we look forward to seeing you again.
In addition to the new album, the band released a career spanning greatest hits package called “No End In Sight” not too long ago and it’s a solid recommendation if you have not yet upgraded your music library from “Records” (their original hits piece). The double CD affair features one new song and some live material. The bands latest album is available exclusively at Wal-Mart and follows in the tradition recently started by Journey, The Eagles, ACDC and soon to be KISS.
1. Double Vision
2. Head Games
3. Cold As Ice
4. Blue Morning, Blue Day
5. Waiting For A Girl Like You
6. Can’t Slow Down
7. Dirty White Boy
8. Say You Will
9. Feels Like The First Time
11. Keyboard Solo
12. Drum Solo
13. Jukebox Hero (w/Whole Lotta Love)
14. Long, Long Way From Home – encore
15. I Want To Know What Love Is – encore
16. Hot Blooded – finale
Official Website: http://www.foreigneronline.com