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| 18 October 2018 | Reply

Riverside Theatre, Perth, Western Australia
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
Photography by Damien Crocker

“I want you to have a good time. I want you to feel free to get out of your mother fucking seats – let’s rock this place!” said lead singer Kelly Hansen in an intimate introduction before the 18-piece ANU orchestra took their seats and launched into a rousing overture hinting at what was to come.

Security didn’t get Hansen’s memo, though, insisting a group of dancers sit down during second song Cold As Ice, until the singer stepped over his monitors to tap the bouncer on the shoulder and waggle his disapproving finger at him sternly.

With only 73-year old founding member and co-architect of these songs Mick Jones left from the band’s heady glory days of mega chart success, it’s left to Hansen – ex-Hurricane and Unruly Child and a fifteen-year vet of Foreigner – to carry the goodwill and charm of the band forward, and he easily wins the crowd over with his energy, stagecraft and amazing vocals.

Within seconds of admonishing the bewildered security personnel, Hansen is leaping off the stage and bounding up the aisle to clap along and sing with the punters in the cheap seats. Way to get ‘em on side – and if Foreigner were in any doubt, Perth was already showing them exactly what love is this early in an amazing show.

Of course, it’s the music which matters most – especially in an orchestral show – but glorified cover band (as some see them) or not, Foreigner easily brought the goods to Perth. Alongside Jones and Hansen are a crack five-piece band including guitarist, saxophonist, flautist Thom Gimbel (a former touring member of Aerosmith) & journeyman bassist Jeff Pilson (ex-Dokken, MSG, Dio and many more). Alongside them were the two cellists who co-arranged, with Jones, Foreigner’s music for orchestra, Dave Eggar and Chuck Palmer, as well as the aforementioned eighteen-piece orchestra led by Kenneth Lampl.

As expected, twenty-six superb musicians make an incredible, lush noise, and this was a concert that was not only technically brilliant but also emotionally moving.

The band members are all scarves and long hair, sunglasses and tight pants, but their energy is infectious, not only for the crowd but also the more staidly dressed orchestra, who get into their roles from the start and easily inhabit the heart and soul of these classic songs.

Foreigner were always a band of duality, mixing enormo-ballads which helped define the very term soft rock with balls-to-the-wall rockers – sometimes in the same song. Both sides of the band were celebrated joyously tonight.

Stools and acoustic guitars were brought out for Say You Will – featuring a flute intro by Gimbel – and let me tell you now, there is nothing ‘middle of the road’ about four guitars, ten violins, three cellos and Hansen’s voice bellowing alongside a full auditorium of ecstatic, singing, clapping fans. The Flame Still Burns – a gem written for the film Still Crazy which won Jones an Ivor Novello award – is a rare treat we never thought we’d be lucky enough to hear live.

The stools are whisked offstage, and Double Vision kicks out the jams with even the percussionist air drumming. The orchestra’s enthusiasm and Hansen’s boundless energy combine to ramp up the crowd’s excitement and interaction to a fever pitch before Hansen makes a near-evangelical motivational speech about the power of music and – realising that the majority of the crowd are over forty – how music made us feel in our youth. Some of us never lost that feeling, but anyone who had couldn’t have helped but be moved spiritually to their own rocking glory days as Hansen leads us into Feels Like The First Time.

A horn section assemble for a soulful R&B take on another track from their 1977 debut, Fool For You Anyway, the smoky lounge vibe transform this song and the rockier -up Dirty White Boy to great effect.

The melding of hot blooded rock band and cold as ice (groan!) orchestra works better for Foreigner than many others, with their catalogue tailor made for the do-over. Both band and orchestra are having as good a time onstage as the audience are off, and Hansen doesn’t stop entertaining for a moment, playing cowbell through Urgent and an inspiring Jukebox Hero whilst Pilson and Lampl boogie atop the riser and the room reverberates with a thousand singing voices.

An encore was inevitable – they may not have made it out of town alive without giving us more of this particular magic – and there was one song in particular which hadn’t been aired yet.

Hansen prowls the stage sermonising – getting the entire room on their feet, urging us to let go of all the bad shit in our lives, to feel the positivity, the love, the groove (as he called the drum and bass beat being played) and then finally, introducing the biggie.

If ever there was a song designed to soar to the heavens with rock band and orchestra it must be I Want To Know What Love Is, and soar it did, complete with the University of WA choir and the added vocals of every single person present. Hundreds and hundreds of people sharing the love, singing the words from their hearts, feeling the youth and vigour of when they first heard this song and band… it’s a magical, electrical, truly beautiful moment destined to be remembered by all present.

After such a lavishly emotional climax, there’s only one place Foreigner can go, so the choir and orchestra leave the stage to allow the band to strip back and rock out one time on the good time boogie of Hot Blooded. The audience remain standing, dancing, singing – Hansen fooling around with Lampl, overloading him with percussion instruments to play – until finally, to a still-standing and well-deserved ovation, this fantastically enjoyable, magical night is over.

Set list:
Blue Morning, Blue Day
Cold as Ice
Waiting for a Girl Like You
That Was Yesterday
Say You Will (acoustic)
The Flame Still Burns (acoustic)
Double Vision
Feels Like the First Time
Fool for You Anyway
Dirty White Boy
Juke Box Hero

I Want to Know What Love Is
Hot Blooded

Category: Live Reviews, Photo Galleries

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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