Las Vegas Sun

April 18, 2014

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MUSIC:

Frontman Kelly Hansen brings fine form to Foreigner

Latest incarnation of band emulates familiar sounds from 30 years ago

Image

Publicity photo

Foreigner

Set list

  • Double Vision
  • Hot Damn
  • Can't Stop Now
  • Cold as Ice
  • Waiting for a Girl Like You
  • (Hairdryer)
  • Can't Slow Down
  • Dirty White Boy
  • Star Rider
  • Feels Like the First Time
  • Urgent
  • Jukebox Hero (with a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” worked into the middle)
  • ++++
  • Long, Long Way From Home
  • I Want To Know What Love Is
  • Hot Blooded

Though he sang, “It feels just like the first time,” it was clear Wednesday night that a Foreigner concert wasn’t the first one for front man Kelly Hansen.

The singer stepped up to the Foreigner mic five years ago and has successfully filled the void that the band’s original singer, Lou Gramm, left when he quit the group two years earlier. (Gramm took two years off in the early ‘90s before ultimately leaving the group in 2003.)

While Hansen may be a stand-in in the eyes of Foreigner purists, he proved once again last night that he has what it takes to front one of rock ‘n' roll’s most enduring live acts.

(And, let’s face the facts: Foreigner purists are a hard group to please thee days, considering guitarist Mick Jones is the only founding member that remains in the band.)

To say 48-year-old Hansen sounded good would not do him justice. He sounded great – just like Gramm back in the ’70s.

Prior to the show, Jones told the Las Vegas Sun that the latest incarnation of Foreigner sounds so good live that they could be mistaken for a recording.

“I think if you close your eyes you’d probably think you were listening to a record,” he said.

While it’s not uncommon for musicians (and artists, and actors, and people in general) to talk themselves up in advance of an event, then fall short when the moment finally arrives, Wednesday’s concert in Primm proved Jones right.

Though hits like, "Feels Like the First Time," "Cold as Ice" and "Long Long Way From Home" were all released more than 30 years ago, Hansen, Jones and the rest of the group sounded just like Foreigner did on their debut record.

The concert at the Star of the Desert Arena was a non-stop study of rock ‘n’ roll 101: The show was full of quintessential rock star poses, rock star moves, and, yes, rock star chops.

Granted, there were no scissor kicks, but there were more than enough serious rock-show staples to make up for it:

Hansen’s pants were tighter than Mariah Carey’s miniskirt. Meanwhile, his shirt was more unbuttoned than buttoned, which allowed him to show off his chest and quintessential rocker accessory, an oversized cross necklace.

The singer wasn’t the only one wearing tight pants last night – and none of the band members were shy about their choice of attire. At one point, Hansen introduced one of his bandmates as, "Mr. Thom Gimbel on the sax and in some very tight pants."

In addition to their tight pants, both Hansen and Gimbel wore sunglasses throughout most of the show, despite the fact that the sun had long been set when they took to the stage just after 8:15 p.m. last night. And they were indoors.

Drummer Brian Tichy was a shameless self-promoter (or ran out of clean clothes) and wore a Foreigner T-shirt throughout the show.

The strongest spotlight on the stage was focused upon Jones who, as the only original Foreigner band member still in the group, was deserving of the attention.

Hansen led the crowd in a few obligatory chants, including, "Let me hear you say yeah! (yeah) Let me hear you say yeah-yeah! (Yeah! Yeah!) C'mon let me hear you say yeah-e-yeah! (Yeah-e-yeah!) One more time, let me hear you say yeah..."

Though the six-piece has a totally capable keyboard player – Michael Bluestein; more on him in a minute – Jones apparently insisted on playing the keys on two songs last night – and didn’t take his guitar off to do it. There were five keyboards onstage: Four for Bluestein and one for Jones when he wanted it.

While bassist Jeff Plison did not demonstrate his ability to play more than one instrument, he made up for his lack of multiple musical ability in headbanging, hair-tossing, and Muppet-style head-dancing (think Janice-meets-Floyd Pepper).

Tichy, who may have very well been a majorette in another life, demonstrated his dexterity by tossing drumsticks a good 10 feet into the air between counts, then catching them time after time, without missing a beat. “Impressive” would be an understatement.

There were grown men -- overgrown men actually (think 60-plus and pushing 240 pounds) – in the audience, completely and shamelessly rocking out on air guitar.

Also in the crowd: glow sticks; tie-dye T-shirts; couples dancing (and spinning each other) in the aisles. Notably absent: The smell of marijuana (which was, ahem, noted a few month back when Snoop Dogg played the very same venue); crowd surfing; women flinging their underwear onstage and/or flashing the band. (Or, if there was, it went sadly unnoticed by this reporter.)

If things with Foreigner don’t work out, Bluestein could easily make it in a boy band: In addition to musical talent and far-better-than-average dance moves, even from his position behind four keyboards it was clear that he possesses the sort of charisma that only a few very lucky (and charismatic) men have: The kind of that allows them to wear white pants. And a choker. And the sort of headset microphone popularized by Madonna and Britney Spears (and, yes, incoming Wynn headliner Garth Brooks) in the ‘90s.

While the young heartthrob-in-waiting appears to be having a good time with Foreigner and is a welcome addition to the group, he clearly missed his boyband calling: Like Hansen and, to a lesser extent, Jones, Bluestein also loves the spotlight. He indulged in a rather epic synth solo, accentuated by Harry Potter-like theatrics where he held his left hand up over the key deck and made like his hovering hand was controlling a magic spell of sound. Again: he missed his calling.

Tichy eventually hijacked Bluestein’s solo and, after another while, he threw his drumsticks into the crowd, and instead opted to wail upon his kit with his hands. Did he look like a caveman? Yes. But it was pretty awesome, too.

Prior to ditching the sticks, Tichy poured liquid of some sort (Water? Beer? Patron?) onto the face of one of his tom-toms, which produced an effect reminiscent of Blue Man Group whenever he hit it.

It should be noted, however, that all the theatrics didn’t come without good reason: As Jones told the Sun earlier this week, the band is in the process of filming a music video for its single, “When it Comes to Love.”

Armed with video cameras, a small army of men captured footage of Hansen’s well-practiced rock star moves (including a rather elaborate routine involving the mic stand), as well as Jones as he relished the spotlight and the rest of the live show.

Those who were in the crowd will be able to relive the night and perhaps catch a glimpse of themselves on the small screen when the video is released.

The main set lasted exactly 90 minutes, including that epic keyboard-synth-drum solo. An additional 20 minutes of rock ‘n' roll came courtesy of the encore yet the band didn’t immediately retreat backstage after the music was done.

Instead, they treated fans to two minutes of hand-shaking, guitar pick-throwing and drumstick-tossing before they ultimately came together, joined arms and took a big, sweeping bow.

Despite the abundance of what some might call rock ‘n' roll clichés, Foreigner gave the sort of rock ‘n' roll show that the rock ‘n' roll gods intended rock ‘n' roll bands to give.

Melissa Arseniuk writes about Las Vegas entertainment and celebrity events. She can be reached at 702-948-7823 or by e-mail at [email protected].