FOREIGNER — Live at the London Palladium

FOREIGNER, the Anglo-American hard rock band, was originally formed in New York City in 1976 by veteran English musicians Mick Jones and fellow Brit and former King Crimson saxophonist Ian McDonald (1976-1980)

Foreigner toured with Kid Rock in 2015. Their recent “In Concert. Unplugged” album has been very well received.

 Mick Jones on guitar. Image by Laurence Harvey
Image by Laurence Harvey

Now celebrating forty years in the biz, we caught the band’s stunning live show in London last night at the impressive PALLADIUM theatre.

The theatre has a special place in the heart of  Foreigner’s former Spooky Tooth songwriter and lead guitarist Mick Jones … the legendary Welsh composer Ivor Novello once performed at the Palladium.

Mick Jones, himself,  became a recipient of the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for “The Flame Still Burns” [from the 1998 cult rock movie, “Still Crazy.”]

The show, introduced by Paul Anthony of Planet Rock kicked off spectacularly with “Head Games” (often misheard as “Hat Games…”) and with some sturdy and truly splendid vocals from Kelly Hansen. He was wearing a Beetlejuice style “Piano” jacket with his long Steven Tyler-like hair free-flowing wildly. His soul and passion is, surely, every bit as good as Lou Graham.

We know we’re coming at you hard and fast …” shouted Kelly. “And I know it’s hard for some of ya … Because of your age…” A quick glance around the auditorium proved the average age of the audience to be about fifty. But the crowd were gloriously radiant and full of spirit. “But you’re not gonna sit down all night are ya?” From then on, the party really began.

By “Cold As Ice” we knew that the band hadn’t  lost any of their sexy vitality. And, even though this show was super-slick and wonderfully professional, it seemed as urgent and fresh as anything since. So, as one, we the multitude shared the special harmony and connection.

Image by Laurence Harvey
Image by Laurence Harvey

Waiting for a Girl Like You” had that pastel-shaded MTV sofa sadness that seeped into our hearts back in 1981. If you never found the love of your life, then this song will ring true. True, it is super-soft and yes, it’s a tiny bit cheesy. But the sentimental feelings evoked at the Palladium were never languid nor depressing. It was passionate stuff. This song gripped the London audience like no other.

Mick Jones addressed the crowd. “I played here with one or two bands… back in the day. On my way up. I even met the Queen!” The audience cheered generously.

After this, the Lou Gramm and Mick Jones 1987 number “Say You Will” was performed. The song has been freshly arranged by Jeff Pilson (one of the most tireless bass players we’ve ever seen) ) and ornamented with a magical flute.

This new ‘unplugged’ piece reminded us of the early work of The Moody Blues. With a touch of Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown” thrown in for good measure. The new arrangement actually spring-boarded the band’s decision to play more of their numbers “reduced and stripped down.” Hence their successful In Concert. Unplugged album release in February 2016.

Later, multi-instrumentalist Tom Gimbel played a juicy, yearning sax, Afterwards Chris Frazier, with his brightly-coloured sticks, provided a sensationaly excecuted and thrilling drum solo.

The stand out number of the evening was — for us —  the thumping good “Juke Box Hero.”

Each musician contributed something extra-special to this amazing piece. Perfect harmonies, sharp and loud guitars and superior bass-play. The twists of elongated elegance from Michael Bluestein on keys were astonishing. He’s “So badass” we’re told “That he even gives his piano hands rock ‘n’ roll names…

If you are ever afraid that you might be falling out of love with rock ‘n’ roll then play “Juke Box Hero” again — Loud and proud. You are certain to fall in love all over again.

What a show! What a celebration ! We’re so fortunate that these guys know how to keep on rockin’

Words: @neilmach 2016 ©
Images: Laurence Harvey

 Mick Jones [left] Kelly Hansen [centre] Jeff Pilson [right] Image by Laurence Harvey
Mick Jones [left] Kelly Hansen [centre] Jeff Pilson [right] Image by Laurence Harvey






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