In the midst of their Juke Box Heroes tour this past summer, Foreigner announced that they would play the first ever, ticketed, original member reunion show. There had been a few one or two member, one-off cameo performances here and there over the last few years. But the August 4th show at Buffalo Chip in Sturgis, SD was the first in which ticket holders knew ahead of time that they would be seeing all surviving original members. During the Sturgis show, Mick Jones announced there would be four more such reunion shows. These four additional shows were kicked off on Friday evening, November 9th in the Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles.
The show begins with the “now” Foreigner launching a seven song chunk of the evening’s collective. Cold as Ice is the opening number followed closely by Head Games. Lead vocalist Kelly Hansen addresses the crowd between tunes three and four and dedicates this performance to the firefighters and first responders battling the fires in and around southern California. They continue on with Waiting for a Girl Like You, this is followed by one not typical for their set list, That Was Yesterday. Hansen would remark that, “we get to do a lot of things that we don’t normally get to do.” One can surmise that is due to the “then” Foreigner playing some of the normal selections from their typical performance. Another of the atypical numbers is Headknocker, off of the first Foreigner record, which would have been a treat to see the original members perform. Next is a long intro by Michael Bluestein on keyboards and Bruce Watson on lead guitar. The musical interlude leads into the opening riff of Urgent, and the crowd erupts. Urgent features Thom Gimbel on guitars and keyboards who also highlights his saxophone prowess with an extended saxophone portion at the culmination. Bluestein joins Chris Frazier during a brief drum solo, leading to the “now” finale of Jukebox Hero with Jeff Pilson thumping out the intro on bass.
After a quick pause to add some equipment, Hansen introduces lead guitarist and founding member Mick Jones. Jones then introduces the remaining members of the original band, the “then” Foreigner, one by one. Rick Wills on bass, who replaced Ed Gagliardi in 1979. Next is Ian McDonald, multi-instrumentalist, Al Greenwood, keyboardist, Dennis Elliott, drums and finally, original vocalist and key songwriter, Lou Gramm. Jones introduces the first piece as “the first song you probably ever heard from this band, and it goes a little like this.” Before he finishes enunciating the last word, he is playing the guitar intro to Feels Like the First Time. The title track from the commemorated record Double Vision is next. The standard bearers sound great and faithfully reproduce the five tunes from their segment of the program. Based on the sound, one would be hard pressed to tell that they haven’t played on stage together in a significant fashion, some for close to 40 years. In the middle is Blue Morning, Blue Day followed by Long, Long Way From Home. Wills introduces what will turn out to be the last song of the “then” set, as the first song he ever worked on with the band. Dirty White Boy is as gritty and rocking as it was in 1979 and Gramm pulls off the “YEAH!!!’ at the end with the same intensity as the day he put it on tape.
The special, original member only section being over, the evening is not quite yet through. The “then and now” period of the concert has all the current members rejoining the original members on stage for a two song finale. The 12 veteran musicians are joined on stage by a local youth choir to help sing the chorus of I Want to Know What Love Is, on which Gramm and Hansen partner for dual lead vocals. The original members have loosened up by this portion of the night, with the pressure of the undertaking seeming to erode, they appear to be having more fun now. No group of people on hand for this momentous occasion appear to be having more fun though, than the current group. Each a tremendous musicians in their own right, the genuine smiles they wear, bear witness to their genuine respect for the trailblazers who created the body or work which they get to impart to people worldwide. The euphoric room is treated to a finale of Hot Blooded and acknowledges the extended cast of the ’70’s and 80’s hit makers with a roar at its completion. A joint curtain call with all of the performers is a photo opportunity for the ages. Foreigner exits the stage leaving the horde wanting more. The conclusion of the production makes one wish they could have played more songs. So many possible options and just so much time. Maybe some 40 year anniversary shows for Head Games?
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