It was hot when we walked into Gexa Energy Pavilion to see FOREIGNER in concert. The sun was still beating down on us and since they were opening for KID ROCK I was surprised there were so many people already in attendance, especially the younger crowd. I’ve been a big fan since they formed in the mid-70’s and I wasn’t about to miss a single note. I’ve seen them in concert several times, first with and Lou Gramm and more recently with Kelly Hansen as the lead singer, and they always put on a great show. Gramm and co-founder Mick Jones, recently elected to the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, wrote so many great songs, ten of which they would perform this night..
One of the things I always enjoy at concerts is getting to hear a couple of deep cuts that normally don’t get performed live. Some bands, like FOREIGNER, have so many big songs that it’s not possible to play them all. When you’ve sold over 80 million albums and had 14 top 20 hits, that doesn’t leave much time for anything but the Greatest Hits. I knew it would be an excellent show, though, and I was right.
When the band came onstage, the first thing I noticed was how good Mick Jones looked. With all his health problems over the past three years, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised with how fit he was and how much energy he had. That wasn’t lost on the rest of the band, or the crowd, as several of us talked before the show about him being the only original member of the group still playing.
We quickly found out how viable FOREIGNER still is in the world of rock and roll as they started off with “Double Vision,” which got the crowd standing. Singer Kelly Hansen, who took over for Gramm in 2005, was in terrific voice and provided an energy that continued for the rest of the evening. He’s always looked like and had the mannerisms of Steven Tyler, and brought that showmanship and talent to the well-written song the crowd knew by heart.
They went right into “Head Games” next, which made the early-arriving crowd cheer even louder, especially when Mick Jones came center stage to give us a classic guitar solo. The band then changed the tempo of the song, which always lets the crowd know they’re at a live show, and it was a perfect fit before finishing the tune we all grew up hearing.
Kelly Hansen then took a minute to talk to the audience, thank us for coming out in such strong numbers, and acknowledging how damn hot it was. It was almost 100 degrees in the seats, so it had to be roasting on the stage. Of course, talking about the heat led to the next big hit and gave Mick Jones a chance to move to the keyboards, for “Cold As Ice.” It turned into a crowd sing-along and let Thom Gimble and Bruce Watson have a little fun playing, and semi-dancing, on a guitar solo.
Hansen then looked out, remarked how beautiful the Texas women were and said all of us guys just had to be a “Dirty White Boy.” It didn’t take much to get the audience to sing as all he had to do was point the microphone toward the us and we sounded like a finely tuned choir. He also took this opportunity to address Mick Jones, his induction into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and all his contributions to the rock world.
The next hit was “Feels Like the First Time,” which started the requisite beach balls bouncing around, the staple of every concert. I also watched with interest as the Confederate Flag made its way through the crowd. I have to admit we all watched for a reaction, of which there was not one, and didn’t pay as much attention to the song as we should have.
“Urgent” was next and the crowd was still as lively as when the concert started. It finished with a great drum solo by Chris Frazier, which thrilled us all. I was happy to see the younger members of the audience enjoy it as much as the ones who were in high school and college when FOREIGNER broke out as a major contributor in the mid-70’s. Songs, and bands, that stand the test of time will always find a way onto true music lovers playlists.
“Juke Box Hero” then started and got the roar of the night. It’s the most-played song on classic rock stations and the one everyone wanted to hear. It turned into a jam and gave Kelly the chance to come out into the crowd and sing, shake hands and let people take selfies. The band kept jamming, and they quit way too soon for us, thanked the crowd for coming and slipped offstage.
With a lot of cheering and prodding, they came back for an encore. Hansen then had the line of the night when he said, “Let’s spread the love like creamy peanut butter,” and brought out the Booker T. Washington Jazz Singers to back up “I Want To Know What Love Is.” There were a few lighters, but mostly lights on cell phones, to accompany the arm waving by the women, and their boyfriends if they were smart. The ballad turned the women to mush, but the guys showed their sensitive side and sang just as loud.
The night finished with “Hot Blooded,” another song we all knew by heart. We also knew it was their last one, so we sang a little louder and danced a little bolder when they turned it into a jam session, ending with lots of thanks from the band to the crowd and vice versa.
FOREIGNER only played for an hour and with so many hits in their arsenal they weren’t able to do the deep cuts or newer songs that I’ve always enjoyed at previous shows.
It was however, hit after hit, which is what so many concert attendees want to hear, and the show was absolutely wonderful. It was hot and caused some of the women to wear very little clothing, but made us guys just sweat like a Swede with a jalapeno enema, but it was worth every degree.
LIVE WORDS: DAVID SIMERS
LIVE PHOTOS: GUZPIX