Words and Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
FOREIGNER are celebrating their 40th anniversary with a worldwide tour that finally arrived at the stunning Royal Albert Hall. A venue that is fast becoming the destination of choice for many bands that want to experience (along with the audience) sound as it should be heard. The venue with the ‘ceiling mushrooms’ is the acoustic equivalent of acquiring a Lamborghini when all you’d previously managed to afford was a station wagon. Let’s just say therefore, that compared to other venues, this is a step up…
Given the style and structure of Foreigner songs, many containing soul and pop moments as much as they do rock, the Albert Hall is and was the perfect venue for them. You’d think Foreigner would have played there before but no, this is the first and only time the band have arrived there in their 4 decade long history.
40 years in the trade has of course seen line up changes and whilst the band that greeted us on stage looked tight, fit and offered some of the best rock musicians on the planet, only one member, Mick Jones, remains from the original line up that has delivered some of the most popular ‘walk down the aisle’ moments for brides around the world. Epic ballads aside though this is also a band that knows how to rock and ever since the reinvigorated outfit began to play and tour again with former Hurricane singer Kelly Hansen, Foreigner haven’t looked back.
With the Bad Company’s Silver, Blue And Gold playing on the P.A., singer Kelly Hansen dashed onto the stage decked in sunglasses, skinny jeans, a pink jacket and scarf, clearly following fashion advice from both Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler. To be fair to Hansen though, he owns the stage as much as either of the two people mentioned and can and did hold the audience in thrall as the band performed 15 of their hot blooded tracks over the next 90 minutes. He even jumped down off the stage at one point and charged into the middle of the audience on the floor making the event feel even more up close and personal for the people he stopped by.
Nothing on offer was a surprise, the songs chosen to make up the set have differed very little over the course of the band’s last few appearances in London but it really doesn’t matter one iota. If any of the tracks shown below were omitted, that would probably have been a far greater cause for concern.
There will of course be some who bemoan the loss of Lou Gramm but no one and I mean no one can sound like Lou Gramm in his prime like Kelly Hansen does. If you closed your eyes for a moment, you were transported back to the late 70s and early 80s, it was pure heaven.
After the wedding song to end all others, Waiting For A Girl Like You, generated a huge sing along and a tongue in cheek intro to Dirty White Boy from Hansen, Mick Jones finally joined the party on stage for roof raising Feels Like The First Time. With thunderous cheers for the man who made it all possible never seeming to end, Jones responded in kind with a glorious piece of guitar work on Urgent.
Personal favourite Jukebox Hero saw Thom Gimbel wheel out the sax solo to end all sax solos. Michael Bluestein on keys and Chris Frazier were also allowed time to shine, hidden away at the back but afforded some cool solo slots and amazing lighting to boot and that really is what sits at the heart of this band. Hansen may be the front man, Jones may be the founder but the band… oh man the band… each and every one is a key part of what makes Foreigner so necessary these days. Jeff Pilson (you know… the guy from Steel Dragon \ Rock Star.. according to Kelly) plays bass like no other, Bruce Watson is the perfect foil to Jones’ playing and between them all the perfect sound was delivered in the perfect venue.
As is always the case, a local Notting Hill based children’s choir arrived on stage for the epic ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’. I’ve been reminded by Foreigner so many times I should know by now but I’ll never turn down the chance to be told… just once more please fellas!
The adrenaline shot Hot Blooded got the crowd on its feet once more and lifted both roof and mushrooms to close the show. A flawless performance. Long may they continue.
Cold as Ice
Waiting for a Girl Like You
That Was Yesterday
Dirty White Boy
Feels Like the First Time (Mick Jones joined them from this track onwards)
Urgent / Keyboard Solo
Juke Box Hero
Long, Long Way From Home
I Want to Know What Love Is (with children’s choir from Notting Hill)