Spoiler alert. Mick Jones doesn’t appear on stage until four songs in. Whether this is to allow for preparation of his Horlicks, who knows, but for a moment it was a little disconcerting. An evening of melodic rock/AOR without one of its heroes is hard to contemplate.
Once again the three-way bill (really two-way, FM got barely 30 minutes) revealed the strengths and weaknesses of the “package” tour. On this occasion the AOR juggernaut that is Foreigner gave two “old-stagers” an object lesson in how it is all done.
To be fair, the sound mix wasn’t too good for FM and not much better for Europe which brought to mind memories of support act sabotage which I am sure all bands would have been familiar with. Starting with ‘Tough Love’ was probably not the best move for FM; given the weak sound it came across a little limp and things didn’t really get any better. But it also reinforced the view that overall FM could do with a little more grit in their mix and perhaps an acknowledgment that 1986 was nearly 30 years ago.
I never felt more excited about Europe than when they arrived in Liverpool in February 2007 and were promoting their ‘Secret Society’ album. Since then they have recaptured old fans, gained new ones (not least the mainstream press) but their set has become increasingly predictable.
And that’s another constraint of the “package” – too many bands play safe with their setlist. But I never, ever, thought that Europe could be completely overshadowed by Foreigner in terms of stage presence and delivery. Apart from the animated Joey Tempest they come across as “going through the motions” with a distinct lack of spontaneity. I hope that the band get re-energized with their next album and without the meddling of Kevin Shirley.
Photo: David Randall
Foreigner, on the other hand, ticked all the boxes and then some. After that initial alarm, with the absence of Mick Jones, they delivered what can only be described as a monumental performance. The band had already played ‘Waiting For A Girl Like You’ before the professorial presence of their leader, but when he did arrive – without a sedan chair, don’t be nasty – it all moved up a notch.
Photo: David Randall
His set-piece ‘Starrider’ is a little proggy for Foreigner but comes over well. His guitar intro set the seal on a wonderful ‘Urgent’ with Tom Gimbel excelling on sax. Things just got better and better, with the less familiar ‘That Was Yesterday’ (from ‘Agent Provocateur’) included. Admittedly the band fell into the package trap of “greatest hits” but they were delivered with so much gusto that we can forgive them for that. Although it would have been nice to hear ‘Can’t Slow Down’ or ‘When It Comes To Love’ off the current studio album.
I have to say in an age when some bands seem to play in almost metronomic fashion, Foreigner shook things up, nipped and tucked where necessary, extemporised when possible (not least the extended ‘Juke Box Hero’) and fully engaged the audience. Kelly Hansen – in particular – was impressive, even if he did – accurately – refer to the capacity crowd as “old motherfuckers”. His vocals too demand special mention: perfectly matched to the Foreigner legacy.
But if you looked around the stage, everyone was animated and everything was slick. Jeff Pilson, for example, remained supremely hyperactive throughout, up to and including when he swopped his bass for Michael Bluestein’s keyboards during the encores. Incredible.
In 2014, Foreigner could so easily be semi-cabaret but this gig was a masterclass in everything. Nothing remotely cheesy, a catalogue deftly tweaked for modern ears, a band with momentum and a rather appealing heaviness. No wonder all that came before was somewhat shaded. And that mug of Horlicks quickly forgotten about.
Review by David Randall
Photos incl. gallery by Steve Goudie, except where stated
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
Photo: David Randall
1. Double Vision 2. Head Games 3. Cold As Ice 4. Waiting For A Girl Like You 5. Feels Like The First Time 6. That Was Yesterday 7. Dirty White Boy 8. Starrider 9. Urgent 10. Juke Box Hero Encore: 11. Long, Long Way From Home 12. I Want To Know What Love Is 13. Hot Blooded
1. Riches To Rags 2. Firebox 3. Superstitious 4. Scream Of Anger 5. Girl From Lebanon 6. Carrie 7. Sign Of The Times 8. Cherokee 9. Rock The Night 10. Last Look At Eden
11. The Final Countdown
1. Tough Love 2. I Belong To The Night 3. That Girl 4. Closer To Heaven 5. Crosstown Train 6. Burning My Heart Down
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