August 3, 2016 Foreigner Rock Foxwoods Casino Ledyard, Connecticut 7-29-16
It has been forty years since the British-American Rock band Foreigner first formed in New York City. They chose the name Foreigner since half of the original band members were from the US (Lou Gramm – vocals, Al Greenwood – keys, Ed Gagliardi – bass) while the other half were from the UK (Mick Jones – guitar/keys/bass/vocals, Dennis Elliott – drums/backing vocals, Ian McDonald – rhythm guitar/keys/flute/saxophone), and no matter what country they were in, some of them would always be foreigners. Their eponymous debut album was released in 1977 and sold over four million copies in the US, sticking to the Top 20 for a year with hits like “Long, Long Way From Home,” “Cold As Ice,” and “Feels Like the First Time.” Their second album, 1978’s Double Vision, sold a million more copies than the first and boasted hits such as “Double Vision” and “Hot Blooded,” making Foreigner one of the world’s top selling bands. In the years since, the band has gone through quite a few lineup changes, but still led by original songwriter Mick Jones. Keeping the Foreigner name strong, they currently consist of former Aerosmith member Tom Gimbel (rhythm guitar, sax, flute, keys), former Dokken member Jeff Pilson (bass), Kelly Hansen (lead vocals), Michael Bluestein (keys, synth), Chris “The Razor” Frazier (drums), and Bruce Watson ( lead guitar).
Still extremely active in the touring circuit, late in 2015, the band members decided to hit the road to play all of their hits to excited and emotionally invested fans. Kicking off their US shows on December 6th in Key Largo, Florida at the Ocean Reef Cultural Center and ending May 26th in Durant, OK at Choctaw Grand Theatre, Foreigner then hopped across the ocean to do a few European shows, which started in London at The Palladium on June 7th. Now back in the USA, they stopped at Connecticut’s Foxwoods Casino, nestled on the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reservation, to play a sold out show on Friday, July 29th, for some die-hard Rock fans to enjoy.
With no opening act, Foreigner was the first and last band on the stage of the Fox Theatre on this night in July. As the first five rows of people crowded the stage, Hansen, Bluestein, Frazier, Pilson, and Gimbel hit the floor running. Full of seemingly endless energy and channeling his inner Steven Tyler, Hansen lapped the stage as the band kicked off with “Double Vision” and “Head Games.” Hansen then addressed the crowd, calling everyone in attendance “true Rock-n-Rollers.” There was no doubt about the intensity of this show – the ages ranged from teenagers to octogenarians, and all of them were grooving to the music.
Next on the agenda was “Cold As Ice,” a song that sounded as perfect as the day it was recorded. As he sang, Hansen launched himself out into the crowd and walked along the backs of the theatre seats as phone cameras flashed in his face. The house lights went down as the first notes of “I’ve Been Waiting For A Girl like You” started, and the crowd took their seats, a melancholy vibe washing over them. Always the flirt, Hansen complimented the sexy ladies before him and the “sketchy” dudes in the seats beside them before explaining that the band actually feeds off of the energy from the audience, encouraging them to wave their hands above their heads and sing along. Although a member of Foreigner for a quarter of the time since the band’s formation, Hansen worked the crowd like he had been singing these songs for his entire life. He took a selfie with Pilson and Gimbel while blasting out the lyrics to “Dirty White Boys.” Hansen then explained that Pilson had musically rearranged “Say You Will” for the stage as Bluestein and Gimbel vied for attention, the keys and the flute in a musical battle.
When Hansen paused to introduce his bandmates, he shocked the crowd by including original member Mick Jones, who had not been seen before then. Jones stepped out onto the stage and played “Feels Like the First Time,” his fingers flipping nimbly over the strings. When it was time for “Urgent,” Jones got his own fantastic solo, blowing the crowd away with his playing. Gimbel pulled his sax out and the two carried the song from beginning to end. Everyone but Bluestein and Frazier left the stage, making the crowd wonder if this was the end of the show. Instead they were treated to two ten minute long solos from the younger musicians. Frazier even banged a gong a few times. The rest of the band came back out for “Jukebox Hero,” a song that had the entire crowd singing and Hansen holding a note so long the audience fell silent to listen. Pilson even took a moment to play his instrument upside down. The boys were eating up the attention from their fans, playing for the camera phones and photo lenses.
Then, to the delight of fans, Jones came out onstage once again for “Long, Long Way From Home,” urging the crowd to stand back up and throw their arms around the person next to them as “I Wanna Know What Love Is” started. From behind a curtain, the members of the Mystic Middle School Choir joined Foreigner onstage. Taking their places behind the drum set, the t-shirted tweens sang the classic Rock tune along with the band and the audience. The kids did a wonderful job and were recognized over and over again by Hansen and the other band members. Pilson even let one of the kids strum his bass. The Foxwood Casino’s CEO, standing just three rows back from the stage, cheered and smiled at the future of America.
The last song of the night was one everyone had been waiting for, one to raise the temperature even higher. For this, Bluestein and Pilson switched instruments and the opening chords of “Hot Blooded” filled the venue. Jones once again blew the crowd away with a glorious solo before turning to stand with Hansen, Pilson, and Gimbel as they played in solidarity. As the night came to a close, Foreigner thanked the Mystic Middle School Choir one more time, reminding the crowd that the school’s double CD was on sale in the lobby. Everyone who had purchased a CD was also put into a drawing for a guitar signed by all six members of the band, and as the crowd waited with baited breath, a number was called. Who won it? That is a mystery for another time.
Be sure to check local listings for more shows from this history-making, Rock-n-Roll sextet, as their tour will continue both in and out of the US until the middle of August. There was even a hint dropped that, since next year will be the fortieth anniversary of Foreigner’s debut album, another tour may be in the works. That in mind, who knows what Foreigner will have in store for the celebration, so keep up to date.Photos by: Dennis Brunelle Photography