I see a lot of love out there tonight!!!!
Indeed there was, with every ounce of it directed toward the Bell Stage on Tuesday night.
You see, gentle reader, way back in the midst of late 70s excess, a little band called Foreigner appeared on the scene. Eschewing interminable solos and multi-part epics that were an integral part of the rock blueprint at the time, these lads simply went into the kitchen and cooked up three minute hits.
Lots of hits...
Their contemporaries (Journey, Styx, Boston, Toto) also took this no-frills approach to making records. As a result, all were lumped into the category of "Corporate Rock". Dismissed offhand by music critics of that era as insubstantial and soulless, these groups were deemed to be guilty of trivial audience pandering. Despite the thumbs down from hip rock scribes, Foreigner grabbed a large piece of the market and won millions of fans in the bargain.
Judging by the large, enthusiastic crowd that greeted them at Bluesfest, the only thing that mattered was the delivery of those iconic tunes.
As for the set list, remember their "Records" compilation?
"Dirty White Boy" and "Long, Long Way from Home" were omitted, though all of the other monsters were present and played at top volume.
The upshot? Zero filler, no drum solos and not a trace of "We're gonna play y'all something from the new record now!". It was a slick, well paced, greatest hits production with everyone firing on all cylinders throughout.
Time for a joke!
Lou Gramm who?"
Exactly, because the guy who stood in his place (Kelly Hansen) is an absolute ringer for the former front man and was note perfect on everything he touched. Considering the vocal range required to cover the material, his execution was flawless. The lone remaining founding member (Mick Jones) , curiously, did not appear on stage until after the fourth song. He was given a huge ovation as he peeled off the signature riff for "Feels Like the First Time". Uncle Mick addressed the throng briefly, casually talking of how his family nearly emigrated to Canada when he was a child and confirmed how much love our nation-state had given to Foreigner over the years. Switching from his Les Paul to an acoustic, he then introduced “Star Rider” from the first album and took over lead vocals, though he was woefully “under-miked” on what was otherwise a very pleasant surprise inclusion in the set.
Jones let his guitar chops speak for the rest of the evening.
The high water mark in the show was a stone heavy version of “Juke Box Hero”, which saw all musicians deviate from the main script and improvise madly in the middle section of the song. The choir from hometown Brookfield High School came out to kick off the encore. Jansen encouraged everyone to grab the person closest to them, feel the love and “get back to the eighties”. “I Want to Know What Love Is” provided a cathartic release,with everyone swaying/singing along in unison. By far their most successful song when released back in 1985, the emotional reaction that it garnered on Tuesday night was overwhelming. Always interesting to see what grabs the masses by the lapels and demands their attention.
"Hot Blooded" closed out the evening, though it was telling to witness thousands of people filing out of the confines of LeBreton Flats, loudly singing, "I want to know what love issssssssssssssss, I want you to show meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee"
As for the trappings of corporate rock, there was no mention nor care.