Grand Prairie, TX – Writing a mixed review about a favorite band isn’t easy as Foreigner has been one of mine for many years. They were the first concert I saw. For a music fanatic, your first concert is a milestone you never forget. The Foreigner of today has changed a lot since the good old days. The group’s founder, Mick Jones, is the sole member from their illustrious past. Heading to Friday’s show at Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I got more than expected; good and bad.
From the openers of “Double Vision” and “Head Games,” the band and music was phenomenal. Singer Kelly Hansen handles the songs made famous by Lou Gramm in authentic fashion without being a clone. He roamed the entire stage with enthusiasm and engaged the packed crowd with downright funny banter. It’s hard not to appreciate his singing and showmanship. The entire band performed like they were having a blast.
Unfortunately, Mick Jones was not among those on stage, choosing to skip this run of shows. His absence was a big disappointment and a bit unsettling with none of the original artists performing onstage.
I cringe at calling this a cover band because these guys are so good. Jeff Pilson (bass) is a founding member of Dokken. Bruce Watson (guitar) has played with Rod Stewart, Elton John and BB King. Thom Gimbel (keyboards, guitar, sax, flute) played with Jon Butcher and toured with Aerosmith for several years. Drummer Chris Frazier has performed with artists like Steve Vai and Whitesnake, while keyboard player Michael Bluestein has toured with Boz Scaggs, Stevie Nicks and others. Without Mick Jones on stage, it was Foreigner in name only. For most, that didn’t matter. They enjoyed every moment.
The band plowed through a 12 song set of hits. Die hard fans hoping for deep cuts like “Women” or “The Damage Is Done” were out of luck. The best chance for that came midway through the show when the crowd voted by applause for the next song. One of the choices was the seldom heard “Break It Up”, an underrated gem from Foreigner 4. Instead, the crowd voted for perennial staple “Blue Morning” from the Double Vision album.
A couple of surprises came from the stripped down, semi-acoustic version of “Say You Will” which turned out beautifully and the combined keyboard & drum solos had a cool, atmospheric vibe. The highlights of most Foreigner shows are “Urgent” and “Juke Box Hero.” I had forgotten how good “Urgent” sounds live, with its funk rhythm and heavy bass. Thom Gimbel more than delivered on “Urgent”’s signature sax solo. During “Juke Box Hero”, the band stretched out a funky slow jam led by guitarist Bruce Watson.
The encore of “I Want to Know What Love Is” featured the choir from Arlington Heights High School joining the band on stage for the song’s iconic gospel chorus. It was a moving sight and hopeful moment seeing a new generation experiencing the talents of real musicians up close. The show was closed out by “Hot Blooded” and the happy crowd sang right along.