Unless it’s one that loves it, there’s usually a reason behind why a band, or two, or three, will go out on tour. This year, Paul McCartney and Billy Joel don’t have a reason – – They’re touring just because they love it. But then, there are some that have a reason. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are celebrating forty years this year. So is Foreigner, who decided to bring an all-American band that was around at the same time as them.
About a handful of 70s arena rock bands that are still together have all, or most of their original members, Cheap Trick being one of them. On the other hand, groups like Journey, Asia, and Chicago are still rocking, but most of their original members are gone. Foreigner is one of those groups, but in my mind, Foreigner is one of those few groups that whether or not you’re a fan of them, you’ll do whatever it takes to see them live. Lou Gramm may not be with them anymore, but Kelly Hansen takes his place better than most second front men in rock do, or have.
Jason Bonham, son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, is also tagging along, and as you can probably imagine, he’s just celebrating Led Zeppelin in general with his Led Zeppelin Experience. Zeppelin’s formation will be turning 50 in two years, so maybe Jason Bonham will be on the road with some other people then. They were up first on the stage at, as the ticket stub promised, 7:00 sharp. Lead vocalist James Dylan and Bonzo Jr. took Tampa on an electric ride through ten of Led Zeppelin’s greatest hits, (Whole Lotta Love, Over The Hills And Far Away) somehow excluding the sing-along Stairway To Heaven. “We’ll be back here in Tampa sometime later this year,” Bonham announced at the end of his set. The LZE will not return to Florida this year as of now, but Bonham himself will be playing drums with former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, and Vic Johnson in VH singer Sammy Hagar‘s supergroup, The Circle in Coachman Park on September 17.
At 8:00, “the best f*cking rock band you’ve ever seen, Cheap Trick,” was introduced to Tampa, and the Amphitheatre for the second time in two years. Their last show in Tampa was last September when they opened for Heart and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts on the Rock Hall Three For All tour. The Hall Of Famers, walking out in their regular hat and glasses disguises, opened their set with their trademark intro song, Hello There, followed by a cover of Day Tripper by The Beatles. Robin Zander, wearing all white, as usual, wailed out the hits created with original guitarist Rick Nielsen (California Man, The Flame, Dream Police, to which Robin literally fell onto his knees for near the end) and also some tracks from their new album We’re All Alright!, which released in June. The set came to what seemed like a premature end when Zander brought out his daughter Robin-Sailor, and some friends of hers, to wrap up the show with the iconic Surrender.
The clock struck 9:27, and literally everyone not seated began rushing back to their seats. The theater was loud, yet unenergetic during the first two bands. Now, it was time for the real deal. The black curtains fell and revealed the modern incarnation of Foreigner, along with guitarist Mick Jones, the only remaining original member of the group. “I’m not sure if all of you aware of this, but this year is Foreigner’s 40th anniversary.” frontman Kelly Hansen bragged, to which the roar of the crowd was the received response. The entire set was nothing but wall-to-wall hits, (Cold As Ice, Feels Like The First Time, Urgent) with Hansen strutting around in white tights, giving a Steven Tyler sort of vibe to the show itself.
And if you were wondering, yes: Juke Box Hero was performed at the end of the main set, and it was truly epic.
Hansen left the stage during the intro, and a minute later, appeared out of nowhere on a rising pole in the crowd, singing the first verse of the rock classic. Except they didn’t just rip through it. At what would be the 4:18 mark of the original 4:18 album version of the song, the first verse was just concluded. Juke Box Hero was not just a performance like the other songs that night – – it was a complete rock and roll odyssey. But they were just getting us warmed up for what was to come.
An encore of the 80s smash hit I Want To Know What Love Is was given along with Tampa’s Blake High School choir, and once the eight-minute rendition of the song had come to an end, the crowd was pretty confident that it was over. That Foreigner had brought 40 years of rock and roll to Tampa, but frankly, I really feel bad for whoever left early. “Is there anything you wanna say to ’em, Mick? Maybe any special friends you wanna bring on out?”
Who else walks out but original drummer Dennis Elliott?
Denny got up to current drummer Chris Frazier‘s kit and smashed out the beats of Long Way From Home, and of course, Foreigner’s other signature song, Hot Blooded. As unexpectedly mind-blowing this was, it wasn’t the first reunion this tour. Last month in New York, Mick Jones brought up Lou Gramm, along with original members Ian McDonald and Al Greenwood for the first time since 1979.
I’m pretty confident in saying that everybody went home either happy or drunk. But hey, whether you felt like the flame, or needed cooling, or were as cold as ice that night, Foreigner proved that even without Lou Gramm, they still bring stars to people’s eyes, jukebox hero or not.