Feeling like the first time: triumphant return of the almost written-off heroes.
Early Noughties weren’t kind to FOREIGNER, Mick Jones remaining the only original member and having to restore the band from the scratch. Well, almost: given their supergroup genesis, the guitarist gathered what could be the strongest line-up and, in Kelly Hansen, even secured the hardest position of all, a Lou Gramm replacement. It would take the ensemble another three years to come up with a new album, when they graced the stage of “Bang Your Head!!!” festival in Germany, in 2006, and celebrated the group’s 30th anniversary, but the sextet delivered a punchy performance, out now on CD and DVD. Bold enough to not please the public with their most recognizable ballads – “I Want to Know What Love Is” and “Waiting For A Girl Like You” – the band instead concentrate here on their heavier, albeit equally memorable material, which keeps the young audience on their toes and singing along.
Opener “Double Vision” may indeed make one to double-check the goings-on as this middle-aged bunch rock out with more vim than the classic line-up, the first vocal lines eliciting stormy reaction from the mostly young audience who, surprisingly, sing along to all the old, although not cold, cuts. When Jones takes to his Kurzweil for “Cold As Ice,” the punters and the band alike revel in lush, sometimes vigorous harmonies, the energy levels getting so high that, at one point, Hansen climbs a lighting mast to get a better view and let off the steam. Yet the digital visuals provide great close-ups including ones from under the keyboards and, um, the singer’s crotch. He stands back for the ever-gorgeous “Starrider” where Mick’s earthy voice shines before he adopts a guitar hero stance for “Juke Box Hero” which breaks into “Whole Lotta Love” as a homage to both his English rock roots and drummer Jason Bonham’s father – note also a “Moby Dick” quote that didn’t make the audio version of the show.
But it’s “Head Games” that serves as an early warning of things to come and a testament to the sextet’s tightness which gets unwound in “Urgent” when Thom Gimbel lets rip with a sax solo and an “Eleanor Rigby” quote over the catchy groove propelled by Jeff Pilson’s booming bass. And it’s “Hot Blooded” that ends this brilliant performance with a vertiginous rush to the head which proves how much FOREIGNER are alive. There couldn’t be more welcome return.