FOREIGNER CELEBRATES 40 YEARS OF HITS

FOREIGNER

PERFORM AT BETHEL WOODS 7-14-17

 

On Friday July 14, 2017 the legendary chart topping rock group Foreigner

played their 3rd show on this summer long 40th anniversary tour at Bethel Woods Center For the Arts in Bethel, NY. Despite the fact that founding member and guitarist Mick Jones was the only original Foreigner member on stage last Friday night at the Bethel Woods pavilion, home of the original historic 1969 Woodstock Music Festival, that was not indicative of Foreigner’s inability to turn heads, wow the audiences and put on a huge rock spectacle during this, their 40th anniversary summer tour along with supporting acts Cheap Trick and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience. The tour kicked off in Syracuse, NY on July 11th and this Bethel Woods show was only the 3rd stop of the summer long tour. Foreigner, after 40 years of churning out hit after hit, still perform all the classic and top Foreigner songs flawlessly never missing a beat. The seasoned band, most who have been with this current lineup for the greater part of the last decade, play the music as it was most likely heard in 1983. Close your eyes and you would swear this IS the original Foreigner. For all intents and purposes, it really is Foreigner with Jones still performing when he is able. Jones, who had been hit or miss for much of 2016 appeared pumped up, revved to go and quite energetic starting the set off with “Double Vision”, “Head Games”, and “Cold as Ice”. The band, with or without Jones, has without a doubt become the new generation of Foreigner and can pick up in his absence in superb form. But make no mistake, Mick Jones is primed and geared to perform this summer on the 4oth anniversary dates in the US with a Canadian tour scheduled for this fall.

Foreigner, one of the world’s best selling bands of all time with worldwide sales of over 80 million records, formed in New York City in 1976 by veteran English musician Mick Jones and American vocalist Lou Gramm. The band’s debut album, Foreigner was released in 1977 and featured the mega-hits “Cold as Ice”, “Feel’s Like the First Time” and “Long, Long Way From Home”. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Foreigner and the band have been promoting their iconic success with Foreigner40 merchandise including a new double album featuring 40 hits from 40 years, special meet and greet and VIP events, new T-shirts, posters, guitar picks and more as well as highlighting the milestone at every show. Rumor has it, as Jones has eluded to, that this 40th anniversary reunion tour may include guest appearances from the Head Games era line-up of original members including Lou Gramm, Ian McDonald, Al Greenwood, Dennis Elliot and Rick Wills.

I have written many concert reviews over the last several years, but I decided to make this post a bit more personal while still keeping with the tradition of reviewing the venue and show as well. Having shot and covered Foreigner several times over the past three years, this show would prove to be a little more personal and special for me not only as a concert photographer, but as a dad. Several months ago, I was approached by Foreigner’s media team about collaborating on photos for this 40th anniversary tour and new album. Needless to say I was simply honored and humbled by this experience and extremely thankful for the opportunity to have even been included along with all the other amazing photographers who have covered Foreigner over the last 40 years. After several months of correspondence back and forth with the team, I had shared with them that my daughter, an up an coming artist in her own right, was a huge fan of Foreigner as well. I’m sure she had little choice as she was constantly bombarded with Foreigner music whenever she was in the car with dad during our fun little drives where we just talk about life, dreams, goals and listen to music. This is one of her favorite things to do. Her favorite Foreigner song is “Juke Box Hero” !!
So when I told her I was shooting one of my, and her, favorite bands again this summer and that she was invited to tag along, she was thrilled. However, once she learned that we not only would be attending the show that dad was covering, but that we would also be meeting the band and sitting in VIP seats, she was beyond excited. She had never been to a “real” concert before. She had only attended a small concert last summer of an up and coming pop artist at a hometown fair. She was in for a shocker of a difference this time.

After an almost two and a half hour ride, we arrived at the venue around 5:30 pm, met another kick ass photographer, who also happens to be the house photographer for the venue. He was very hospitable towards me and my daughter, offering us food and introducing us to his friends as well as giving me some strategic pointers regarding the venue layout and policies. Shortly after this warm greeting, we headed to will call to pick up our tickets, photo-pass and meet and greet passes as well meet the gal who explained the “photographer escort policy” for the venue. She was super cool and offered to take my camera bag with her and guard it personally backstage until it was time for me to shoot.
My daughter had never heard of The Woodstock Music Festival before so we spent some time walking the grounds talking about the historical event, saw the original field the festival was held in, and visited the museum and gift shop before getting in line to enter the concert venue. Now my daughter, who is the youngest of my two girls at 13, is quite the free spirit, caring, loving kind who would help out any stranger in need and has the heart of a saint. She is always wanting to help those less fortunate, volunteering, organizing fund raising events, rescuing stray animals and other philanthropic ventures. She seemed more and more intrigued by the history of Woodstock and what it represented. She left the gift shop with a tie-dyed peace, love and music sweatshirt. But by the end of the night she would receive a few more cool gifts and an awesome experience.

At just a little after 7 p.m. Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience (JBLZE) kicked off an amazing 50 minute set which totally took not only me, but my 13 year old daughter by surprise. I mean these guys were awesome. The sound and musicianship was dead on. Bonham thanked the crowd and took everyone back to the hey days of Zeppelin songs with the right sound, attitude and grit that Zeppelin had. He even talked of his stint in Foreigner 9 years ago and wished the chaps the best on their 40th anniversary. JBLZE absolutely rocked the house starting out with “Immigrant Song”, “Good Times Bad Times”, “Over the Hills and Far Away”‘ along with many others during their ten song set ending with “Whole Lotta Love”, and “Rock and Roll”. Before the set during our meet and greet, one of Foreigners team members had told me not to miss these guys, that they will “make the hair on the back of your neck stand up”. He wasn’t kidding. I am still bummed that I didn’t act fast enough to secure a pass to photograph these guys. However, if you ever get the chance to check these guys out, do yourself a favor and see this amazing band of talented musicians.

As JBLZE’s crew cleared off the stage and Cheap Trick’s crew started getting their stage set up and ready things seemed about off schedule as Cheap Trick was slated to start at 8:05. By 8:15, no Cheap Trick. Then, which I mistook for part of Cheap Trick’s opening montage, over the loud speakers came a booming voice that started off by announcing to the crowd “Due to unforeseen circumstances…… Then proceeded to announce that “the show was being postponed until a very dangerous and heavy storm that was headed directly at us had passed”. At first I thought maybe it was some kind of joke until I saw the crews begin laying tarps over all the exposed equipment, amps, soundboard and cables. Damn, I thought. The announcer then informed the sold out crowd at the venue that those in the lawn section should begin evacuating to their cars immediately and those under cover should remain in their seats. Unfortunately my AT&T service was basically non existent but those with Verizon could get some service and were able to look at the radar. Not good. It was showing the slow moving but powerful storm was still about 30 minutes away and was packing a punch with heavy winds, lighting and torrential showers. 30 minutes turned into 45 then an hour with no storm, only light rain. Folks with cell service were sharing news that the storm may last until midnight. Both my daughter and myself began to think this was going to be a wash out and starting contemplating hitting the road. The only thing that kept us in our seats was the fear of getting drenched if we became caught in the storm while walking the half mile to the parking area. So we sat. As the clock continued to tick, just around 9:30 p.m. we saw the crews beginning to uncover the tarps and the announcer shared over the loudspeakers that the show would resume in 30 minutes.

The long wait was well worth it. Cheap Trick came out blazing at 10 p.m. with original members Robin Zander, Tom Peterson, Rick Nielsen and drummer since 2010, Rick Nielsen’s son Daxx Nielsen. Having seen Cheap Trick a couple of times over the years and always being impressed with their show, set, and of course Rick’s array of fully functional fun guitars, this again was a first for my daughter who thought it was great. Zander came out in his classic black leather outfit with black police hat. Peterson seemed a bit laid back and donned a fairly heavy jacket with a thick scarf wrapped around his neck as if perhaps he might be fighting off a cold. The air had by this time, with the light rain, had turned quite chilly. Nielsen came out and interacted the most with the crowd joking into the microphone, running back and forth, throwing what seemed like thousands of picks into the crowd and changing guitars after almost every song. The younger Nielsen was rock solid behind the kit never missing a beat. Although they had a shortened set due to the time constraint, they played just about an hour set consisting of ten songs. Cheap Trick opened with “Hello There”, “California Man”, and “Long Time Coming”, their newest single off the 2017 album We’re All Alright. They of course played all there well know staples including “If You Want My Love”, “Dream Police”, “Surrender”, and “The Flame” which featured a gritty but melodic Zander on acoustic guitar. My daughter recognized several of Cheap Trick’s songs, but seemed to be impressed at the very end during “Goodnight” when Rick Nielsen strapped on his famous 5 neck guitar.

After a quick set change and installation of a massive black curtain that covered the entire stage from left to right and from top to bottom following Cheap Trick’s set, Foreigner’s crew quickly made sure their set was good to go all in secrecy behind the huge black fabric that draped the stage. By 11:05 the large black fabric was quickly dropped and whisked away to reveal Foreigner’s stage and the band as they immediately broke into their first number, “Double Vision”. The large crowd at Bethel were now on their feet screaming and singing along and did not have time to catch their breath before Foreigner went right into their second song, “Head Games”. At 72 years of age, Mick showed know signs of getting too old to rock at Bethel as he had the energy and guitar licks that keep the fans engaged and entertained at the same time year after year. Lead singer Kelly Hansen (56) shows absolutely no signs of slowing down either as he continues to perform and sing all the classic Foreigner songs effortlessly, all while running, jumping, leg kicks and mike stand twirling like a twenty something year old rocker. He shows know signs of letting up and seems to perform each show like it was his first. Following “Head Games”, Mick’s diamond plated encased keyboard was wheeled onstage and the band performed the 40 year old mega-hit “Cold as Ice” from the 1977 self titled album Foreigner.

Foreigner continued throughout the night also with a slightly condensed and shortened set due to the storm delay. Missing from the set were the power ballad “Waiting For a Girl Like You”, “Starrider”, and Long, Long Way From Home. However there was no letting up from the hit parade as Mick and the guys continued to interact and perform for the crowd belting out other hit after hits including one I hadn’t heard live before, “Blue Morning, Blue Day” from the 1978 top ten US Billboard chart topping album Double Vision

Foreigner had the audience highly engaged and up on their feet for the entire set. Hansen urged the crowd to stand up and many of the fans moved toward the front of the stage and down the aisles as the energetic crowd pleaser made the fans feel a part of the show by giving high fives, running out into the crowd during a few songs and interacting with them as he circled the floor before jumping back up on stage. In fact, all band members were certainly into the performance and not lacking for energy despite the almost 2 hour delay.

The hits kept coming all night including “Urgent” from the 1981 number one album Foreigner 4, “Dirty White Boy”, and “Feels Like the First Time”. Then Michael Bluestein (Keys) and Chris Frazier (Drums) got the already pumped crowd even more riled up with an amazing keyboard/synth solo along with a killer drum solo that led into an amazing light and stage spectacle for “Juke Box Hero”. At one point Hansen disappeared into the crowd only to be seen 20 feet in the air singing from a riser back by the soundboard during the song.

One highlight of the show was the local kids choir who joined Foreigner onstage next to perform their number one and biggest hit to date, “I Want to Know What Love Is” from 1984’s Agent Provocateur album. One by one the students from the choir made their way to the riser between the keyboardist, Bluestein and drummer, Frazier as the intro to the number one song began. Foreigner has been inviting local high school and singing groups onstage with them to accompany them with this song for the last several years and it never gets old. This gesture continues to remain a very noble and gracious act on the bands part. It is humbling to witness and very entertaining. Towards the end of their set my daughter got another pretty cool surprise. One of Foreigner’s team brought her a cool 40th anniversary goodie bag filled with all things Foreigner including a poster, guitar picks and VIP keychain. I think she is hooked for sure now!

Foreigner continues their 2017 40th anniversary tour throughout the summer into September. They then depart for a Canadian tour beginning in October 2017. Whether you’re an old fan or a newcomer to Foreigner, the band is timeless and the current line-up features hand picked top notch musicians that perform all the Foreigner hits with flawless sound, energy and passion. Check out their upcoming tour dates, news and more at their website below.

Foreigner Official Website

Foreigners current line-up includes:
Mick Jones – Founding Member, Guitarist
Kelly Hansen – Lead Vocals
Bruce Watson – Guitar
Tom Gimbel – Guitar, Keys, Sax, Flute
Michael Bluestein – Keys, Synth
Jeff Pilson – Bass Guitar
Chris Frazier – Drums

Set List:
1. Double Vision, 2. Head Games, 3. Cold As Ice, 4. Blue Morning, Blue Day, 5. Dirty White Boy, 6. Feels Like The First Time, 7. Urgent, 8. Juke Box Hero, 9. I Want to Know What Love Is, 10. Hot Blooded

To view photo gallery from the Bethel Woods show click on the following link:
FOREIGNER 40 PHOTO GALLERY