The musicians who performed as Foreigner last weekend in Penticton were completely foreign to the band’s founding members.
Keyboard-guitarist Mick Jones – who’s been with the band since inception – was supposed to be in the lineup but he pulled a sickie. Lou Gramm, the original lead singer, has been performing at some shows on this tour, but not Penticton – we got the karaoke guy.
So even though the gimmick of this tour was that it’s Foreigner’s 40th anniversary, nobody on stage had been with the band for anywhere close to that long.
Nevertheless, the show was fantastic.
The new frontman Kelly Hansen, who joined the band in 2005, knows the science behind pleasing an aging audience. Early on, he got the crowd jacked up by having them cheer over the discrepancy between those under 40 and over 40.
Then the inherent baggage of the average Foreigner fan was addressed. Everybody was asked to dig deep into their brains to repress the memories of parenthood, regretful tattoos, a first marriage – and just enjoy the night as if they were 28 and single again.
A cheerful response came from a joke Hansen made about doing illegal drugs back in the day. It was a good segue into a psychedelic light show, but there wasn’t much substance to the joke – people just find it funny that mind-altering drugs get consumed even though it’s against the law.
While nobody involved with the performance was much of a celebrity, Hanson’s showmanship made it feel like everybody on stage really was a star. Initially I had reservations about spending my Saturday night watching a washed-up tribute band try and repackage its success from decades ago, but Foreigner somehow put on a very impressive concert.
And beyond the spectacle of the show, they put a noticeable amount of effort into engaging the local community.
Instead of drawing the curtain after the last song (Hot Blooded), the final act was an announcement from a member of the Penticton Shrine Club, declaring a winning 50/50 ticket number.
The limelight was also shared with the choir at Penticton Secondary School. They were brought on stage to assist with the song I Want to Know What Love Is.
Afterwards, Hansen draw attention to the importance of music programs in public schools and said they don’t receive enough funding. The audience offered their rhetorical support by cheering, because sure, everybody wants to help out emerging artists and encourage innovation. But we were kind of doing the opposite of that, spending our disposable time and money at a greatest hits concert to chase feelings of nostalgia.
Foreigner might only have four or five songs that most people would recognize from the radio, but for their live show, they refreshen up their hit tracks and stretch them out. There was a retro feel to the show; it felt like Hansen was giving off a strong Freddy Mercury vibe at one point. Also, drummer Chris Frazier performed one of the most impressive solos I’ve ever seen.
The lyrics in Foreigners music often embrace youthfulness. But considering how old each musician must be to belong to a band that’s over 40 years old, it seemed like the guys on stage wanted to counteract the natural assumption that they must be lame geezers by now, so each song was packed full of upbeat energy.
Exiting the venue amid the sea of fans was an equally valuable part of the experience. The parking lot was full of stragglers who were ready to party like it was 1985, and there was a car stuck in traffic packed full of cougars with two or three of them hanging out the windows shouting “Woooo.” But unfortunately I only saw one grown woman wearing full leopard print.
Stuff like that makes me wonder how dorky I’m going to look in 35 years from now – surely youngsters from the next generation will scoff at me for rehashing my glory days.
For six musicians who are riding completely on the coattails of their predecessors, Foreigner hit all the right notes to offer a far out experience. Their live show beautifully recaptures the tail end of the baby boomer golden era.