Written by Debbie Irene Ide
At first, I was shocked to see how many people were pouring into the Dos Equis Pavilion from the parking lot Friday night August 11th. FOREIGNER and LOVERBOY were very popular when I was in college, but I had no idea how many people would want to see them today. The parking lot was almost full and there was a sea of concertgoers heading into the venue. I put on a little lipstick, grabbed my bag, and headed in.
I was ecstatic that Live Nation had provided me with a great seat for the show and as I made my way towards my seat, I realized I was parched. I was unexpectedly greeted by Live Nations Michael Pouncy who offered me a bottle of water and a sweet compliment on my dress. He was so pleasant that I came back after the show to visit with him and let him know how much I had enjoyed the concert and appreciated the water.
LOVERBOY took the stage at exactly 7:30 PM and broke into fan favorites “Notorious”, “Lucky Ones”, and “Queen of the Broken Hearts” to gear up for a straightforward “Take Me to the Top” which got the crowd warmed up for a great evening. “The Kid is Hot Tonight” had me wondering if I had ever seen so many old men dancing in my life. It was super fun to watch. Mike Reno asked the audience to sing along to “Loving Every Minute of It” and of course, everyone was happy to do that. The unmistakable baseline and guitar licks from “Turn Me Loose” led us into the climax of their set “Working for the Weekend” which of course had everybody dancing and singing. I was pleasantly surprised that Mike Reno was still able to hit some of those famous high notes that, if you’re a vocalist, you know, are not that easy.
An anticipatory keyboard intro had the audience on edge as the sound of an announcer shouted out “Ladies and Gentlemen… please welcome FOREIGNER!!!!” Much to my surprise the audience immediately went wild right away. Kelly Hansen, who has been fronting the band since 2005, jumped on stage with bright yellow velvet pants sparkling with rhinestones on them, dark shades, a vest over his t-shirt, and even a scarf. I wondered for a moment if he had forgotten that he was playing in Texas and that it was 100 degrees or
more outside. Hansen is quite the showman so none of that deterred him from dressing up or putting on a high energy show for us.
“Double Vision” the title track from their second album that reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1978, kick started the set like a hot motorcycle. Luis Maldonado who joined the band in 2021 was fiercely playing a gorgeous metallic green Gibson SG, while Bruce Watson shredded on a beautiful black Les Paul with gold hardware. As they were punching out “Head Games”, the title track from the British-American rock bands third
release, I realized that Hansen was doing an extraordinary job of singing these very recognizable iconic songs. The audience absolutely loved it! His vocal performance was consistently accurate as though it were effortless. I didn’t hear a single sour note.
Some may think that Hansen should change things up a bit more to make those songs his own with different vocal nuances, but Hansen delivers exactly what the audience wants. We know and love those songs and he performs them impeccably in their original glory, yet he adds his own flare stylistically here and there. It’s perfect. Foreigner could not have picked a better vocalist and frontman to lead their show. Hansen’s ability to keep the audience engaged with dramatic and entertaining moves that were perfectly timed to drumbeats and other musical punctuations was exactly what you would expect from a rock star. I think I may have even seen him jump into a yoga pose or two.
Before the lights dimmed and the band Segued into “Cold as Ice” from their 1977 debut album that became one of their most recognizable songs and hit No. 6 on the charts, Hansen took the time to tell us that the only goal for the band that night was to have a great time with us, and he asked us if we were ready. Naturally, the crowd answered with a deafening scream in response, and they proceeded to reach that goal. A sweet rendition of “Waiting for a Girl Like You” followed as they let things simmer for a bit. If I remember correctly, on this song Jeff Pilson played keyboards and Luis Maldonado played the bass.
What a talented group of guys! Pilson is said to be suffering from a back injury that had him sitting down for some of the show, but you could tell he wanted to be bouncing around the stage like he normally would. A couple of times a hot rodded wheelchair with LED lights on it and what looked like C02 gas coming off the back like two tailpipes, jetted him from one place to the other. It gave us a giggle despite the gravity of it and most people seemed to find it ingenious.
I happened to make friends with some people who invited me to join them on the 2nd row, so I had a great view when the show turned into a very intimate acoustic ensemble.
“When it Comes to Love”, a song that Hansen co-wrote in 2009, was followed by a heart stopping version of “Girl on the Moon” from 4 which had me swooning from those lovely harmonies. I totally enjoyed watching Bruce Watson play his Dobro guitar laying on his lap using a slide, and that might have been the time that Hansen informed us that everything we were hearing on that stage was being made completely by the band. Nothing was recorded or sampled, it was all purely organic. “Say You Will” had all the girls in the audience saying “Yes, they will”. What a beautiful version of this song that I believe Pilson had originally arranged to be done acoustically for a radio show.
Hansen reminded us how it was 46 years ago that FOREIGNER released their very first single in 1977. He joked about seeing that we too, or at least a lot of us, were over 40 as well. He also acknowledged the under 40s while highlighting the beautiful fact of being over forty, is the experience and knowledge that we now have. He said, “We know a lot of sh*t, about a lot of sh*t, right?” To which I had to laugh because, well, he was right! He then said, “And right up until we don’t…we have, memories.” He thanked everyone for supporting the band for all those years and said it was only appropriate to go back to the
beginning, to the very first song we heard from FOREIGNER and the band erupted into the timeless riffs of “Feels Like the First Time”. You guessed it, the crowd lost their minds.
Everywhere I looked I could see people remembering the first time they heard that song and feeling the way they did back then. The energy in the room was absolutely electric with Love and Excitement.
My memories went back to a time when I first saw Hansen perform with his then, up and coming band HURRICANE. He was already an accomplished singer and vibrant performer. I remember when I found out he had joined forces with FOREIGNER, I had hoped to one day enjoy the show. I never expected to be blessed with the opportunity to do a review and share my experience with all of you though. It was so heartwarming to see him reveling in the overwhelming love of the fans and nailing songs that held so much significance for us all. The collection of songs that propelled us through life events like weddings, break-ups, and most importantly…falling in love.
One of my favorite parts of the show was when Hansen was introducing the band. You could tell that his comments were heartfelt and his reverence for his bandmates was genuine. Then, when Pilsen introduced Hansen, it seemed to me, that Pilsen felt Hansen was a gem that he is very grateful for. Michael Bluestein did an amazing keyboard solo that was lightning fast and showcased his extraordinary talent followed by a drum solo from Chris Frazier that was just as blistering.
When things died down a bit, the classic foreigner logo backdrop fell, and the unmistakable jukebox was lit up behind them. I heard the audience screaming and looking backwards during the intro, so naturally, I had to look back and see what they were all excited about. It was at that moment I noticed Kelly up on a ribbon lift, which is like a tall slender platform that moves up and down. The lift was barely big enough to hold him. He was about 20 feet in the air belting out the power vocals of “Juke Box Hero”, from their
1981 release of the album #4 that reached #3 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The audience went frantic as they sang every word along with him. As a matter of fact, the audience sang every word to every song throughout the entire night, which is something I’m not sure I’ve ever seen. As Hansen made his way through the crowd back to the stage, everyone was delighted to be near him. Back on stage, he and the group finished off the inimitable hit with a climactic ending. The guitar work by Watson and Maldonado was scorching at that point and Hansen did not disappoint with the searing high notes toward the end.
The whole group was wound up and finished the set in true Rock and Roll
fashion. The high energy finale had the audience screaming for more until finally FOREIGNER took the stage for a much appreciated encore. As Frazier kicked out the recognizable drum beat for “I Wanna Know What Love Is”, Hansen asked the crowd to show each other some love and sing together with the band. With Pilson on the Keys and
Maldonado on bass again, the entire arena sang along and radiated an overwhelming pouring out of love for each other and most especially the band. Again, I could see on everyones face the emotions of memories flooding over them. It was a glorious sight for sure. People were hugging and holding each other, dancing and singing. There really was so much love to soak in.
Hansen took a moment to sit on the edge of the stage to remind us that this was the farewell tour. Even though it may feel like a sad moment, the songs and the fans deserve to be given the very best from the band, all the time. And when they leave this stage, we will all know that they have given us everything that they had. It was a very touching moment, and it really made me realize that these guys aren’t just saying this is their farewell tour, only for us to see them for the next five years. This moment
made me realize that this was the end of an era. I did get a little teary-eyed because I was super grateful that I got to see this show!
After that heartfelt moment and a quick instrument change, Hansen counted off to rev up the song “Hot Blooded” during which flames stretched up toward the sky behind the band. I could literally feel the heat from the flames. At one point Hansen went back to the drums and grabbed a stick from Frazier. He danced his way back to the front of the stage and I thought he was gonna throw the drumstick out into the audience. Instead, he tossed it back to Frazier, who caught it in mid air without missing a beat. I have to say, It was very impressive.
FOREIGNER has not only entertained us for more than four decades with life changing music, but they have given back to the community by working with the GRAMMY Foundation to help inspire funding for music programs in schools. They have sold over 80 million records achieving 16 top 30 hits while being the soundtrack to our lives.
I know I say this every time, but seriously… you have to see this show! This truly is their farewell tour and there is absolutely no way this music has not had an impact on your life. I promise you, you will have a great time and you will not regret going. Actually, I highly recommend, if you have children, take them. This will be the last time this amazing catalogue of music is played live for humanity by this group of extraordinary musicians.
This tour is going to stretch out into 2024 so make sure you see it when it comes to your hometown. Thanks again to Live Nation for putting on the best party in town!