Foreigner – State Theatre, Portland, ME – February 18th, 2014
Review by James Pappaconstantine
I remember walking down to my favorite record store and picking up the first Foreigner album when it came out in 1977. It was one of those albums you could put on the turntable and enjoy both sides, each and every track, and the releases to follow were much the same – hit after hit, well written, well performed songs.
However, of all the bands I have seen since 1977, and that list is long, Foreigner is one that I somehow always seemed to miss. So when asked to cover their show at the State Theatre in Portland, Maine, I was quite excited.
Foreigner got their start in 1976, with Mick Jones, Ian McDonald (ex-King Crimson) and Lou Gramm. They completed the lineup with the additions of Ed Gagliardi, Dennis Elliot, and Al Greenwood. Gagliardi left the band in 1979, followed by Greenwood and McDonald in 1981. This left Jones, Gramm and Elliot as the remaining original members. The saga continues, and Gramm and Elliot left the band in 1991 although Gramm reconnected with Jones two years later and remained active until 2005. Over the band’s 37-year history, that’s right – 37 years – musicians have come and gone with the one constant being co-founder Jones.
Unfortunately Mick has missed the past few shows due to illness. As you might imagine, this has been leaving a few fans disappointed that there are no original members doing the gigs Jones missed. I understand that sentiment, but I can honestly say that although Jones was missed, the band and the show were excellent.
It was once again a snowy night here in Portland, par for the course for the past three concerts I have attended, and a parking ban was in effect. I refuse to slow down due to the weather. The show started at 8:15, and I was told it would be over by 9:35, with no opening act. I was afraid the set list felt a bit short, only 13 songs. That said, the show actually ended some time around 10:00, making it roughly an hour and forty-five minute set, which is a normal set length.
Foreigner’s set was filled with the hits. They opened the show with the title track off their second release Double Vision. Vocalist, Kelly Hansen, Hurricane, appeared on the riser as the rest of the band walked on, and within the first guitar notes he jumped into the air and down onto the main stage and set the energy level for the night. Jeff Pilson, Dokken, on bass, matching Hansen’s vigor, raced from one end of the stage to the other working the audience up into a frenzy. Bruce Watson, on guitar, had his blonde locks flying in the air as he joined in, and Thom Gimbel, saxophone, followed suit on the other side of the stage. Laying down a solid back beat was drummer, Christopher Frazier, and rounding out the big sound was keyboardist, Michael Bluestein. The music was tight and well rehearsed, and although it would have been great seeing Mick Jones standing up there with them, the band carried the torch high and bright.
The band continued to play hit after hit, and Hansen connected with the crowd with hand shakes, fist bumps and hugs, a couple of times even jumping into the crowd and meeting with people in the back of the house. Thom Gimbel moved around from guitar to keyboard to flute to saxophone to percussion and then back to guitar and keyboard. Gimbel did the same thing for Aerosmith from 1989 to 1995. One might think of him as giving James Brown a run for his money as “the hardest working man in show business.”
Late in the evening Kelly Hansen grabbed my camera and took a few shots, of us, the audience, in the front rows, and of Frazier and Bluestein. (See the photo section for images)
An excited and happy Deering High School Choir joined Foreigner onstage to belt out the lyrics of “I Wanna Know What Love Is” during the encore. At the end Jeff Pilson pulled one of the choir members, Jr. Sierra Marston up front to have her go crazy on his bass. Foreigner has been picking high school choirs across the country to join them on stage, raffling off a signed Epiphone Les Paul, and giving the chosen school $500 toward their music program. What a fantastic way for this band to give back since music and the arts are always the first to get hit with budget cuts today. As a Deering High School graduate myself, Thank You!
Foreigner closed the evening with their hit “Hot Blooded,” certainly a good song for a cold blustery night. This was a great night of music, and a fun show to attend. One of the security folks told me that this was the best show she had worked in years, and that even though she couldn’t turn around and watch it, it sounded great and by the looks of the crowd everyone she could see was enjoying themselves and singing along with every song. Had she laid her eyes on me during the show, she would have seen more of the same. The fans at this sold out show joined in with the energy on stage and indeed sang along with every song. What a night.
One final word to the folks who crab and stay home lamenting that original members of the band are no longer on stage – you’re missing a great experience, a terrific, high energy show, and a damn good time. Personally, I believe that as long as the band is having fun and performing at the top of their game, and people are buying tickets and enjoying the shows, who cares? If you started a band or any other project under a moniker, and if over 37 years members quit, left or passed away, as long as you are remaining true to the project and people want what you’re selling, keep doing what you do. Foreigner gets this. Damn the Torpedoes!
The Set List:
Double Vision ~ Head Games ~ Cold As Ice ~ Waiting For A Girl Like You ~ Blue Morning ~ Dirty White Boy ~ Say You Will ~ Feels Like the First Time ~ Urgent ~ keyboard & drum solos ~Jukebox Hero
Long, Long Way From Home ~ I Wanna Know What Love Is ~Hot Blooded