On Thursday May 15, the classic rock band FOREIGNER kicked off their 2008 summer tour at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey. Long gone are original drummer Dennis Elliot, long-time bassist Rick Willis and even “the voice” of FOREIGNER itself… Lou Gramm. But with founding member and legendary guitarist Mick Jones still hanging in there along with the additions of amazing drummer Jason Bonham (Although fill-in drummer Brian Tichy(Billy Idol) was behind the skins this particular evening), the multi-talented Jeff Pilson(ex-DOKKEN) on bass, guitarist and incredible saxophonist Tom Gimbel, keyboardist Michael Bluestein and Kelly Hansen(HURRICANE) taking over lead vocal duties, the 2008 version of this legendary band is in no way just a cheap imitation of the original. While the name remains the same, this group of talented musicians have combined to form an extraordinary rock band that even the most die-hard of original FOREIGNER fans cannot deny.
Looking very Steven Tyler-ish with his tall, slim posture, Hansen and the band plain and simply owned the stage and treated the attending fans to a show that did not disappoint. It was almost scary at times just how much Hansen compliments the songs to the point where if you closed your eyes, you would be hard pressed to not think it actually was Lou Gramm singing. Not to take anything away from Lou himself, but it was just amazing how effortlessly Hansen could incorporate his own style into these classic tunes… but that’s just the point! He can pull it off because he’s not trying to imitate anybody. In his own words, after my wife asked him backstage after the show, “What was it like stepping into this situation having such big shoes to fill?”… he simply said, “I’m just doing my own thing.”… And indeed he is.
It’s sometimes easy to forget after all these years just how many hits this band had but by the end of the evening, they had played “just” about every one of them. Opening with “Night Life” from the critically acclaimed “4” release, these guys wasted no time in bringing this crowd to their feet. The set list read almost like a Billboard top 100 list of the 70’s and 80’s! “Head Games,” “Blue Morning, Blue Day,” “Dirty White Boy,” “Cold As Ice,” “Feels Like the First Time,” and (of course) their 1981 mega-hit “Waiting For A Girl Like You” were all included. They even reached way back into the archives and performed the little more obscure “Starrider” from their 1976 debut release as well as something that hasn’t been heard from FOREIGNER in well over a decade… a new song! Titled “Too Late,” the song not only captures that original FOREIGNER sound but also showcases and launches this “new” band into the 2000’s and is slated to appear on the band’s first studio release in 13 years due to be released later this summer.
Wrapping up the set was another one of my favorite FOREIGNER tunes “Long, Long Way From Home” followed up by the always passionate “I Want To Know What Love Is.” With or without the accompaniment of a choir, this song still is able to jerk a few tears out of the most stubborn of people. And finally, the set ended with (of course)the hard-rockin’ “Hot Blooded.” You wanted hits; you got hits… all night long! You can never say that these guys don’t give their fans exactly what they want. The only song I can think of that I felt was missing was “Double Vision” but hey… I think we can forgive ‘em for that!
Yes, the year is 2008 but FOREIGNER is a band that can still rock with the best of them. While Pilson, Hansen, and Gimbel breath fresh life into what some would consider “dated” material, it’s the veteran riffs and style of Jones which still holds this whole thing together. The only thing I regret is that I wasn’t able to meet Mick himself after the show but who knows… maybe next time!
So if you really want one “Hell” of an evening with some incredible musicians performing hit after hit after hit, keep an eye on www.foreigneronline.com and see if FOREIGNER is coming to a town near you. Believe me, this ain’t no cheap imitation… FOREIGNER 2008 is FOR REAL and is a concert experience which will make it “feel like the first time” all over again.