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Sunday, October 6, 2019

Foreigner's Double Vision: Then & Now Reunites Original Band Members Mick Jones, Rick Wills, Ian McDonald & Al Greenwood with Current Lineup for an Unforgettable Night in Atlantic City

(Foreigner Original Band & Current Lineup
All Photos: Cate Meighan)

When Mick Jones, Ian McDonald, and Lou Gramm first joined forces in New York City back in 1976 to form Foreigner, they never in a million years would have predicted that four decades later their music would still live on in regular radio rotation across the world. Health issues, growing pains, lineup changes, and internal strife have all played a part in the bands' evolution and temporary disintegration, but the music has always been much more powerful than all of those things combined. The music has weathered every storm that the band has faced, always waiting for them on the other side, ready to be played once the temporary diversions have been settled.

Foreigner's catalog is an overabundance of riches for any musician fortunate enough to be able to do it any sort of justice and no one understands this better than the band's original lineup, Mick Jones (lead guitar), Lou Gramm (vocals), Ian McDonald (guitar/sax), Dennis Elliott (drums), Rick Wills (bass) and Al Greenwood (keyboard). After the success of a handful of reunion shows last year, Jones, McDonald, Wills and Greenwood have once again decided to share the stage and recapture a bit of that rock and roll spotlight. 

Gramm had originally been scheduled to join them but had to bow out a few days beforehand on doctors' orders, after a temporary illness flared up.

 The Hard Rock in Atlantic City was one of only four shows slated for this year's Double Vision: Then & Now reunion and what transpired on stage really was a perfect balance of the original Foreigner members, with the current lineup. So far, this is the only rock band that has managed to successfully meld two different lineups and the end result is an incredible gift for everyone in attendance.

The first part of the show featured Foreigner's current powerhouse lineup led by Kelly Hansen on vocals. He absolutely shows off his range on hits like "Cold As Ice" and "Head Games" before sucking the crowd in with an emotional intensity on "Waiting for a Girl Like You" and "That Was Yesterday". Hansen often seems to get lost in the shuffle of frontmen, but he is truly one of the best around and there's no doubt that he leaves everything that he has got on the stage night after night.

Kelly Hansen

While Hansen is leading the way, the rest of the current lineup is an incredibly skilled group of musicians, all with decades of success before even venturing to set foot on a Foreigner stage. It's unimaginable to think that anyone could ever step in for Mick Jones, yet Bruce Watson did such a phenomenal job during a medical emergency years ago that he has never left. Watson has earned his spot by being versatile enough to either play lead guitar with his own unique flair or to accentuate the magic that Jones weaves, as his right-hand man.




Bruce Watson


Bruce Watson & Kelly Hansen






Jeff Pilson (interview herespent years 'breaking the chains' with Dokken before joining Foreigner and he's still an animal onstage. One minute he is literally headbanging right in front of you and the next he is already at the opposite end of the stage rocking out. His bass playing is a standout, even on the ballads and his background vocals really add to the texture of the band. Pilson also functions as a music director and has a lot to do with all of those seamless transitions that you barely notice happening on stage.


Jeff Pilson

I think every great band needs a solid multi-instrumentalist and Tom Gimbel (interview here)  is probably THE most versatile musician currently touring. In any given song he might be playing rhythm guitar ("Head Games", "Juke Box Hero"), keyboard ("Cold As Ice", "Waiting For A Girl Like You"), or if you're really lucky you'll get to hear him on flute ("Starrider"). Hands down, Gimbel's shining moment is when he cracks out his saxophone to make "Urgent" the soaring, iconic piece that it is. 


Tom Gimbel

Michael Bluestein, on keyboards, is not only fantastic at his craft, but he is also quite an entertainer. Even from the back of the stage he always catches my eye with the way he pumps up and engages the audience. Chris Frazier has been the man behind the kit for the last eight years and he is the driving force that pushes this great band through songs like "Juke Box Hero". If drums really are the solid foundation for any band then Foreigner certainly is sitting in very solid, capable hands.

If you watch the interplay on stage with the current lineup you realize that these guys aren't lying when they say that they really are friends. There are so many little moments exchanged between them that are probably just as sentimental as the actual playing is.

 In Atlantic City, Mick Jones took to the stage right before "Urgent" and this audience (clearly raised on Foreigner) went crazy when he started playing that infamous guitar solo that begins the song.

Mick Jones

Tom Gimbel & Mick Jones

After an extra-inspired version of "Juke Box Hero" Mick introduced the rest of the original members and one by one Greenwood, Wills, and McDonald all took their place on stage. Hansen continued on lead vocals and Watson pitched in on guitar as the guys who actually played on those original recordings launched into several songs from their very first album. Less than a minute into "Feels Like the First Time" it was obvious that this stage (mostly) full of 70ish-year-old men could still rock their asses off. 

Mick Jones & Rick Wills

Rick Wills
Rick Wills on bass,  seemed to be having the time of his life, with a smile that just couldn't be contained and it was cool to see (and hear) Al Greenwood make those melodic keys dance.  Their set, which included "Blue Morning Blue Day" and "Long Long Way From Home", really made me want them to just keep playing.

Al Greenwood

Multi-instrumentalists always intrigue me because they just have so much going on.  Ian McDonald seems to go through a mental checklist while meticulously getting himself together before playing and it's cool to see him have a bit of a sax solo, complete with a bit of theatrical flair, during "Long, Long Way from Home".

The split setlist for the Double Vision: Then & Now shows is exactly as you would hope that it would be. It allows each incarnation of the band to play to their strongest current abilities and then everyone wins.  The sold-out audience in Atlantic City was certainly appreciative and perhaps even more importantly, every single guy playing seemed to be having one of the best nights of their musical career.  There was no better way to wrap up such a rare evening than by bringing all twelve musicians back onstage to perform "I Want To Know What Love Is" and "Hot Blooded"

Jones, Hansen, Wills, Gimbel & McDonald

Jones, Hansen, Wills, Gimbel & McDonald

Kelly Hansen

Bruce Watson

Jeff Pilson

Tom Gimbel & Kelly Hansen

Jones, Pilson, Greenwood, Bluestein, Wills, McDonald, Frazer, Gimbel

Foreigner Original Band & Current Lineup

Setlist

Current Lineup

Double Vision
Head Games
Cold as Ice
Waiting for a Girl Like You
Headknocker
That Was Yesterday
Urgent (Introduction of Mick Jones)
Juke Box Hero

Original Band

Feels Like the First Time
Blue Morning, Blue Day
Long, Long Way from Home
Dirty White Boy

Both Bands Together

I want to Know What Love Is
Hot Blooded



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