by Steve Janowicz
It was hit after hit for the packed house of fans that flooded into the Florida Theatre on Friday evening for the nearly sold out Foreigner concert. The band, which Mick Jones formed in 1976, has a relatively new lead singer in Kelly Hansen. The 5 years Kelly has been fronting the band still pales in comparison to original singer Lou Gram however, Hansen has the right set of pipes to keep the 70s – 80s era songs alive. Heavy rotation on American rock radio has burned most of these hits into the mind of every 30 – 50 something music lover. It was evident from the first song that the devote Foreigner fans were more than happy to spend their Friday night with the legendary rock band, especially for those in attendance too young to have seen the band back in the day. Foreigner delivered the rock, with spirited versions of “Double Vision,” “Dirty White Boy,” “Cold As Ice,” “Feels Like the First Time” and other favorites.
St. Augustine based, Soulo Lyons, a Reggae 2 piece band opened up the evening. The half house tolerated them and to be honest, the oddly placed opener was talented, but I certainly would have never put these two acts together. Foreigner was obviously the main draw and was expected to put on quite a show. At least one worthy of the cost of admission. The band did not disappoint and Hansen fit in perfectly with Jones and company with his quintessential 80s rock voice. Obviously influenced by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Stones front man, Mick Jagger, Kelly had the women’s attention. He had no problem leaving the stage and getting up close and personal with the fans. One notable difference in the bands lineup was the absence of drummer Jason Bonham. I over-heard more than a few expressing their disappointment caused by Bonham’s absence. Replaced by Brian Tichy, the hard hitting, stick flipping percussionist did a great job filling the spot and probably did a better job. The seasoned Jeff Pilson filled out the bottom on the bass and looked as he was still in “Docken” so many years ago. On keyboards was Jeff Jacobs, and multi-instrumentalist Thom Gimbel played the guitar, sax and flute and of course founder, Jones’s guitar is still screaming out the melodic solos that resonate throughout the memories of baby boomers everywhere.
The New CD, Can’t Slow Down is a 3-disc set of new material, re-mastered and a performance DVD that was being sold for $20 in the isles by staffers. $5 went back to charity and entered the fan who purchased it into a drawing to win a signed guitar and a photo op with the band after the show. The charity angle was a great way to sell the new disc set and I think more bands should do the same, as it created excitement among the patrons as well as gave back to charity. The live performance was almost identical to that of recorded material we all remember. Mixing in a few new songs on the night was fair but the crowd showed up to hear the hits. I’ll tell you this, if the new songs were given radio play, they would be hits. I doubt this will happen as most of the older hit makers new material never gets played on radio. Skynyrd has been making great new music for years and you never hear it unless you buy the CD.
As the set wound down the obvious mega hit was saved for the encore. As the stage lights turned red, Hansen flailed and screamed through “Hot Blooded”. The theater shook with applause and the audience took over the vocals. The crowd left happy and satisfied ready to plunk down anther $45 for next years show and for this band, that’s just the way they want it.