Ah, Foreigner. I have two very strong memories of Foreigner from my teenage years. The first is that their debut album, Foreigner is what I consider a perfect album. Every song is great and I can listen to it over and over again. The second memory is a bit different.
When I was in high school my mother wouldn’t let me go to concerts. Once I graduated, however, I could do what I wanted. That summer Foreigner was playing at a local amphitheater, and my best friend and I were thrilled to be going. We sat on the lawn for the opening act, then traded tickets with two other people and sat inside for Foreigner. Foolishly we were standing on fold-down seats, since everyone was standing and we were (are) both vertically challenged. All of a sudden my friend throws her arm out to the side and I go flying backwards. Thankfully, a cute guy caught me from most likely breaking every bone in my body, and I tried to play it off as an “oops!” All that said to reinforce the idea that music has power, music can create wonderful, if not embarrassing, memories.
Foreigner was formed in 1976 and became a staple of top 40 radio. Even non-fans know the hits: “Hot Blooded,” “Feels Like The First Time,” “Cold As Ice,” and “Head Games” are just a few of their monster hits that are still being played on the radio and streaming services. But the Foreigner of 1976, even the Foreigner of 1986 no longer exists. Why? No more original members.
Don't get me wrong-Foreigner puts on a great show. Kelly Hansen has been the lead singer since 2005. If he isn't an example of energy and enthusiasm then I don't know who is. The audience can tell the band is having a good time right along with them. Kelly turns the show into a singalong, gets people on their feet dancing, clapping, reliving their own memories. He sings all the hits as if he wrote them, as if he sang on the original. But he didn’t. And that kept gnawing a bit at the back of my mind.
I enjoyed the concert, truly I did. Kelly asked the crowd to reach back to when they were in their 20s, when they rocked and partied and stayed up past 10PM! For a short time that night we were all the young person we used to be. I sang along. I smiled. I remembered.
Foreigner saved their biggest hit for the encore, “I Want To Know What Love Is,” and brought out a local high school choir during the second half of the song. Kelly heaped praise on the group, then added, “I like to have the choir to remind people that we need to continue funding for music programs in school.” Amen.
For a band with such a vast catalog, though, Foreigner needs to reach in and mix up the playlist a bit. Keep the hits everyone expects, then add a few more. My personal favorite “Long, Long Way From Home,” “Blue Morning, Blue Day,” “Headknocker,” “That Was Yesterday,” and “Say You Will” would be good choices. The show, sadly, was under 90 minutes so there’s plenty of time to add a song or 3 to the set.
Sometimes, over the long life of a band, there are personnel changes. Kelly Hansen isn't Lou Gramm, but he’s pretty close. I’ve seen Foreigner five times, four times just in the last three years. Would I go to another Foreigner concert? Of course, their music is the soundtrack of our lives. Plus it’s a lot of fun. And I’m always up for a good concert!