Melbourne’s Hamer Hall was at its finest as I took my seat for night one of two sold-out shows from the highly anticipated Foreigner. The buzz was widespread as the mature audience flowed in to fill their seats, and I must admit I had been counting down myself, my butterflies taking flight as I awaited the start of the show. Now, this was not just any show, this was a celebration of 40 years of rock legends Foreigner, accompanied by an 18-piece orchestra no less.
Cheers rang out as the lights dimmed and the orchestra lead by Canberra conducted Kenneth Lampl filled the stage. Opening with a beautiful overture, hinting what the night may hold as Foreigner flooded the stage, all seven members looking vibrant and champing at the bit to get the show on the road. Dynamic frontman Kelly Hansen taking the helm, looking amazingly fresh in his sports jacket, scarf and the tightest of jeans, but let me tell you, he rocked it and had all the ladies swooning!
Blue Morning, Blue Day got the ball rolling, followed closely by the classic hit Cold As Ice which saw Kelly take the crowd, high fiving fans and climbing across seats rousing the punters who were ecstatic to get up close with their music idol. Founding member Mick Jones showing us all just how talented he is, swapping from guitar to keys and back again, with backing vocals on point, he is such a well-rounded musician, once might say he is the complete package! Waiting For A Girl Like You and That Was Yesterday both faultless, bass player Jeff Pilson working the stage like the professional he is, guitar picks flying to screaming fans, his behavior a lot more lively than the average bass player. With a back catalog of the highest caliber I knew it would be hit after hit as the band moved into the acoustic part of the performance. With stools appearing onstage the guys took a seat with the exception of drummer Chis Frazier who stood tambourine in hand and Michael Bluestein on the keyboard. The acoustic set was a new addition to their shows and wow what an addition it was, Say You Will was simply amazing, and the heart rendering The Flame Still Burns, perfect in every way.
It was the orchestra’s time in the spotlight with a short prelude giving the band a much needed moment to catch their breath. Bounding back onstage with the killer track Double Vision and their first mega-hit Feels Like The First Time from their debut album way back in 1977 which had everyone on their feet. Up next was Fool For You Anyway also from the debut album and one of Kelly’s favourites to sing. Dirty White Boy saw Kelly getting fresh with the front row, giving his butt a grab asking if the girls liked it, and just quietly, I think they did!
Urgent had the fans up again, singing along loving every minute and brought multi-instrumentalist Thom Gimbel to the forefront showcasing his amazing sax skills. Guitarist Bruce Watson a seasoned professional, while he kept his blue shades on for the duration is was abundantly clear he could play with his eyes closed and still sound sensational. I had been patiently waiting for my favourite Foreigner song and as the orchestra started the sublime classically arranged Juke Box Hero I was on my feet, the cello, double bass, and percussion lifting this legendary song to celestial heights. As Kelly delivered the famous ‘That One Guitar’ line Hamer Hall erupted in flashes of colour, my skin tingling hairs standing on end, oh what a rush, it takes a very special song to coerce that reaction and for me, that song is Juke Box Hero! Full credit must go to Dave Eggar and Chuck Palmer for their orchestral arrangement it was perfection. They both performed astonishingly well, Chuck rocked the percussion section like no other and Dave Eggar, cello player extraordinaire gave us a breathtaking solo which brought the house down with applause.
The lights dimmed but we knew the boys would be back and it didn’t take long for Kelly to return saying of ‘course we have more’ then we had the discussion on the average age of the fans, which of course was over forty, we stood proudly and did a meditation of sorts led by Kelly, just for this moment we let go of our worries and let in the love of rock and roll. We put our arms around the person next to us and felt the groove the music provided, the vibe was one of happiness and was the perfect intro to I Want To Know What Love Is. Once again, the orchestra was sensational, for this song they were accompanied by the Melbourne Children’s Choir which made for a very beautiful dynamic. Everyone on their feet swaying to the beat, phones lit up in the air made for a gorgeous spectacle. You could feel the love in the room and it was extremely refreshing to let go of all that negativity if only for a few hours. The stamina of Kelly Hansen must be seen to be believed, working the stage with ease, spinning the mic stand, playing every instrument he could get his hands on, his vigor that of a man half his age. But let’s touch briefly on his voice, I was blown away from the opening song and it just got better and better, one of the best in the business, every lyric delivered with perfection and the backing harmonies were pretty damn fantastic as well.
If I wasn’t pumped enough by this point in the night I literally went into overdrive as Hot Blooded rang out. Chris a machine, working his kit like an extension of his body, the room exploded as everyone made the most of the last song of the night. Mick showing us all how the big boys do it, Jeff and Bruce racing from side to side engaging with all the fans, Michael smashing out this classic loving every second. It was a phenomenal end to the night and as the final bows were taken I couldn’t help but think that this brilliant bunch of musicians were far from foreign, they felt like part of our Australian rock family. As with any family, we will welcome them back with open arms, sooner rather than later!
Review Contributed by Cassandra Hale