Foreigner®Laurence Harvey

Foreigner: Push it to the limit

Foreigner | London Palladium | 7 June 2016

Photo: Laurence Harvey

Foreigner will forever be synonymous with seven little words: I want to know what love is. And in London the quintessential ‘80s power ballad gets the royal treatment – pride of place in the encore, an appearance by support act Deborah Bonham, and even the prerequisite backing vocals from an angelic children’s choir. But tonight’s electrifying show emphasises that there’s a lot more to this band than their only UK #1 single.

They blast into one of the capital’s most iconic venues with a relentless rendition of ‘Double Vision’, strutting frontman Kelly Hansen belting out lines like “my mind is racing but my body’s in the lead” while milking the audience with all the skill of Steven Tyler circa 1975.

And the hits just keep coming.

The unstoppable ‘Head Games’ gives adrenalised bassist Jeff Pilson the chance to throw vintage rock shapes while the stadium-issue lighting rig works overtime. ‘Cold As Ice’ has Hansen jump into the auditorium and clamber across seats while the six musicians on stage sing and play as one. ‘Waiting For A Girl Like You’ slows the pace a little, but that oversized chorus keeps the momentum going before ‘That Was Yesterday’ takes the set back out onto the highway, with Hansen’s husky, emotional vocal more than matching Lou Gramm’s original.

‘Dirty White Boy’ showcases Foreigner’s blues rock roots and the triple guitar attack of multi-instrumentalist Tom Gimbel, former session man Bruce Watson, and band founder Mick Jones, whose slick six-string skills are sometimes overshadowed by his talents as a songwriter. And it’s soon clear why: stripped of its rock ‘n roll bombast, an unplugged reimagining of ‘Say You Will’ highlights not just Jones’ way with a melody but the talents of the younger musicians surrounding him.

An old school keyboard and drum solo give Mike Bluestein and Chris Fraser another moment in the spotlight, leading to an extended run through the aptly named ‘Urgent’, complete with that oh-so-‘80s sax solo from Gimbel. Of course it’s paired with another classic from 1981’s ‘4’ album, the stars-in-his-eyes anthem ‘Juke Box Hero’ that ends the main set just as explosively as it began.

Complete with a nostalgic spoken introduction by 71-year-old Jones, ‘Long Long Way From Home’ kicks off the encore before ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’ sashays in, and ‘Hot Blooded’ truly hammers home the fact that, even after four decades, Foreigner remain a red-blooded rock ‘n roll band, undiminished by the years.

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