June 25, 2018 Foreigner & Whitesnake Prevail At Jones Beach, NY 6-22-18 w/ Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening
The summer season in the Northern Hemisphere official began on June 21st, and what better way to launch it all than with some Rock-n-Roll music. In fact, just 24 hours later, on the evening of Friday, June 22nd, Foreigner’s Juke Box Heroes Tour arrived at a quintessential summertime location, the beach! Jones Beach, New York to be exact. A regular stop on their ever-busy touring schedule through the years, this time around, their visit to the Long Island bay-side venue, currently called Northwell Health at Jones Beach, featured a teaming with Whitesnake and Jason Bonham. A Classic Rock experience difficult to deny, Juke Box Heroes, plural, was a fitting title, because it would very much play out like a jukebox of non-stop hits.
First up to the stage was Jason Bonham and his band of friends – Vocalist James Dylan, Bassist Dorian Heartsong, Keyboardist/Guitarist Alex Howland, and Guitarist Jimmy Sakurai. Son of the legendary Led Zeppelin Drummer John Bonham, Jason Bonham leads his band, which recently changed their name from Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience to Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening – raising the question, what do the original members of Led Zeppelin have planned with their 50th anniversary looming. Nonetheless, not much has changed for Jason Bonham’s act, besides the name.
A band Bonham launched approximately 8 years ago, it began as a cathartic release to remember and honor the greatest of his father’s work in Led Zeppelin. John Bonham, is arguably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, drummers in Rock-n-Roll history. Truth be told, Jason Bonham is no pushover himself. Playing drums since the ripe age of 4, he has dedicated his life to music, and is also an extremely talented percussionist, validating the age old like father like son idiom. That in mind, the great thing about Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening is that it bridges generation gaps. Yes, there are the dedicated elder Led Zeppelin fans who come out in support, but there are also the younger generation of rockers coming out too, those curious to get a glimpse of the great music their moms and dads are always raving about.
Offering just that, Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening blasted through a killer set of Led Zeppelin classics including “Immigrant Song,” “Good Times Bad Times,” “Over the Hills and Far Away,” plus much more. Dylan, showing off a strong set of pipes, mirrored Robert Plant vividly, and the guitar work of one Sakurai was blistering as well. Tight, rehearsed, and striking, their performance steamrolled by as they wrapped up with more favorites including “Whole Lotta Love,” “Rock and Roll,” and of course, “Stairway to Heaven.” A loud and heavy concert experience, Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening is a must see.
Keeping the fire burning, after a brief intermission, veteran hard rockers Whitesnake were ready to go. Also no stranger to touring, spending a great deal of their time on the road over the years, Whitesnake’s origins date back 4 decades; around the time Lead Singer David Coverdale departed from Deep Purple. Looking to carve his own niche in the Rock-n-Roll bedrock, Coverdale has led Whitesnake ever since and produced a ton of memorable hits along the way. Dropping the acclaimed The Purple Album in 2015, a record of remakes of songs from Deep Purple band lineups Mark III and Mark IV, Whitesnake is said to be preparing for some brand new material in 2019. Until then, let us indulge in the live performance.
Coverdale, the man behind the legacy of Whitesnake, has surrounded himself with an extremely solid cast of players in recent years. There is longtime Drummer Tommy Aldridge, but then there is Winger’s own Reb Beach on guitar, Michael Devin on bass, New York city native Joel Hoekstra on guitar, and Italian import Michele Luppi on keys. Together they form a very powerful band that unites youthful exuberance with life experience.
Rock-n-Roll to the T, they were on point as they dished out Whitesnake favorites including “Bad Boys,” “Love Ain’t No Stranger,” and “Slow an’ Easy.” Having everyone on their feet, from the front to back, Coverdale sported some of his own youthful exuberance, swinging the mic stand in the air, moving about the platform, belting out notes with ease. Then there was the theatrical display of Hoekstra who unquestionably is a man who loves what he does for a living. Looking for a guitarist who falls to their knees, hoisting their axe up, while bending the hell out of the strings? Hoekstra is it!
Speaking of that fun-lovin emotion, he and appointed band leader Reb Beach shared the spotlight together with fiery dueling guitar solos. Both very accomplished players, nowadays, most Rock bands are lucky to have one lead guitar player, but Whitesnake are fortunate enough to have two. Not to be forgotten behind his massive kit, Aldridge also showed off skill on drums amidst the solo portion of the show, even ditching the sticks at the end, going freestyle on the skins with his hands.
Marking a midway point of the set, Coverdale soon returned for songs including “Crying in the Rain,” the unmistakable ’80s ballad “Is This Love,” and sexually driven “Slide It In.” Then, wrapping it all up, the perfect summertime Rock anthem “Here I Go Again” came before set closer “Still of the Night.” All in all a performance that would more than appease any diehard Whitesnake fan, they are truly a band that only get better with age.
At this point deep in the groove, Foreigner were anointed as the chosen ones to bring in the night. Recently celebrating their 40th anniversary in 2017, Foreigner are one of the longest running and most successful Rock-n-Roll bands of all-time. Wait, is that right? Yes, yes it is. Foreigner has been consistent, vital, and one of the biggest producers of hit records for decades now. Forever and always led by Guitarist, Songwriter, and Producer Mick Jones, through ups and downs, he has kept this freight train moving.
Fortunately for fans, while in years past Jones live appearances with Foreigner were not as regular, he is now back in action full-time on stage. He, Kelly Hansen (vocals), Tom Gimbel (guitar/saxophone), Jeff Pilson (bass), Michael Bluestein (keyboards), Bruce Watson (guitar), and Chris Frazier (drums) round out the current Foreigner lineup, and it is a powerful one at that.
Much like Whitesnake who came directly before, these guys have a blast on stage, and it shows in their body language and facial expressions. Vital in a live arena, Foreigner has the endless bank of songs, but it is the presentation of them that make the show worth seeing. There is no mailing it in with this crew – they smile, laugh, and interact with one another through each song, adding to the lively, upbeat nature of the show. Furthermore, they sound so damn good!
Building the crowd anticipation, the opening keys of “Long, Long Way From Home” quickly launched into a full-blown array of stage lights, revealing the entire band in a separated layout. In most cases such a stage setup would lead you to believe there would be little interaction because of empty spaces in between, that was not the case with Foreigner. As mentioned, they were highly engaged with the crowd, as well as one another, and the wide open stage merely allowed them a chance to move around with little constraint. Leading that spark of energy of course was Hansen, a frontman of the highest order. Colorfully dressed, like a rockstar should be, Hansen bounced around and even entered the audience at one juncture in the show.
Having the crowd very much in the palm of his hand, he was playful and conversational, giving the audience the escape needed from the chaos of the world outside the venue’s walls. Most certainly the perfect fit for Foreigner for over a decade now, he also sounded fantastic on “Double Vision,” “Head Games,” “Cold as Ice” and “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” Wasting little time, the hit machine kept on rolling with “Dirty White Boy,” “Feels Like the First Time,” and oddly enough, rain began to fall as they went into “Urgent.”
Not at all a deterrent, the large crowd stuck it out through a little bit of wind and rain before Jones himself was given a rightful introduction before taking lead vocals for the beautiful “Starrider.” Having the audience eager for more, “Juke Box Hero” wrapped up the main portion of the set before the encore unfolded with the Uniondale High School Choir joining the band for a magnificent rendition of “I Want to Know What Love Is.” Something that has become part of the Jones Beach/Foreigner tradition, the band also donated $500.00 to the choir for appearing with them. A heartwarming moment all around, there was still one more surprise left when they closed out with “Hot Blooded,” but with original members Ian MacDonald on guitar and Al Greenwood on keyboards!
Kind of taken back by MacDonald and Greenwood’s appearance? Well, this is sort of a prelude of what is to come. Are you curious yet? Alright, here it is, on August 4, 2018, Foreigner will be performing a reunion concert at The Sturgis Buffalo Chip in Sturgis, South Dakota. Here, Lou Gramm, Dennis Elliott, Al Greenwood, Ian McDonald, and Rick Wills will join Mick Jones for a once-in-a-lifetime Foreigner show not to be missed. So those who are still making summer vacation plans, a trip to South Dakota is something to think about. For everyone else, let us hope the night is documented with video and audio for a future live album/home video release. All that said, the Juke Box Heroes Tour still has plenty of more shows coming up, so get out and join the celebration.