New lineup keeps Foreigner hits 'Hot Blooded' in fun return to Scheels Arena
Classic rock act welcomed singers from West Fargo’s Sheyenne High School and Moorhead High School to the stage for "I Want to Know What Love is."
FARGO — If a band plays under a name, but none of the members from the classic lineup are present, is it really the same band or instead a cover act?
In the case of Foreigner and its return to Scheels Arena Wednesday night, does it really matter?
The current lineup didn’t just play the hits, they gave the songs new life, which is impressive as the “newest” tune in the set was 1984’s “I Want to Know What Love is”.
Mick Jones remains the only founder and member from the group’s heyday from 1977 to ’87, but due to health problems the 78-year-old hasn’t regularly toured with the band for about a decade.
Still, he put together a tight lineup that flexed its musical muscle on 12 of the band’s biggest hits.
The spark plug for the new lineup is singer Kelly Hansen, a wiry, dynamic performer who channels energy. If Adam Levine thinks he has “Moves Like Jagger," (he doesn’t) Hansen has moves like Steven Tyler. He slings around his microphone stand, mugging with his bandmates and playing to the crowd from the opening "Double Vision" and "Head Games" for nearly the full 90-minute concert.
More importantly, he taps into former Foreigner front man Lou Gramm’s blue-eyed soul singing.
Hansen has said he knew the time was coming when he couldn’t do the songs justice, prompting the band to announce its farewell tour starting this summer. On Wednesday night, however, Hansen was as good as ever, even wailing the high notes at the end of “Waiting for a Girl Like You”.
He also served as the emcee for the evening, introducing songs with a comedy routine.
“How many of you women have a naughty partner in your life? How many of you would like to?” he said as an introduction to “Dirty White Boy”.
He also introduced members of the band, which was useful as only bassist Jeff Pilson would be recognizable from the 1980s rockin’ in Dokken.
Introducing the group’s 46-year-old debut single, “Feels Like the First Time,” Hansen thanked the longtime fans and the younger ones as well.
“We love you under-40-year-olds. You have youth and flexibility on your side,” he joked. “How many of you over 40 can remember being able to stand through the whole show?”
That hit home at Scheels Arena where many with seats on the floor stood all night, but most in the bowl sat for the bulk of the show.
Though he’s entertaining as a speaker, there was too much talking when there could have been a little more rocking. The chit chat and extended solos ate into time they could have given to some other hits. Maybe some fan wanted “That Was Yesterday,” “I Don’t Want to Live Without You,” or “Say You Will”. The latter was the only song the group didn’t carry over from its 2016 stop at Scheels Arena, though swapping it out for “Blue Morning, Blue Day” was a welcome addition.
Hansen spoke in the royal we when he thanked everyone for supporting “us” since the band’s 1976 debut, which was sweet and kind of funny since new guitarist Luis Maldonado was only three years old then.
Maldonado was brought in in 2021 after long-time multi-instrumentalist Thom Gimbel left the band and the latter’s saxophone was missed on “Urgent”. The song is vintage 1981 with pulsing keyboards and blistering sax solo. The latter was filled by Michael Bluestein stepping out from behind the keyboards to come down front for a key-tar solo that didn’t really fill the void.
Bluestein is truly talented on the keys and got a solo to show range from classical piano to progressive rock organ pumping. That solo led into Chris Frazier getting a chance to let loose on his own drum solo, which is pretty cliché for a rock concert, but also a fitting way to segue into “Jukebox Hero,” which itself was extended into about a 10-minute jam with Maldonado and fellow guitarist Bruce Watson showing off their own shredding fretwork.
The energy carried over into the encore with the chugging “Long, Long Way from Home.”
Hansen convinced everyone to get on their feet to sway and sing along with Foreigner’s biggest hit, the 1984 ballad, “I Want to Know What Love is”. The band got some extra help from a chorus of singers from West Fargo’s Sheyenne High School and Moorhead High School standing at the back of the stage. Unfortunately, while Hansen encouraged the crowd to take the lead singing the chorus, the high school singers were hard to hear, even when Hansen went up to sing with them. Still, it was fun to watch the energy on their faces when they sang and also the excitement when they spotted a guitar pick at their feet and one gleefully picked it up and waved it at the crowd.
Hansen preached of the importance in funding music programs in public schools, but turned back to rocking for the finale, “Hot Blooded,” with the guitars sounding as crunchy as ever.
In an interview with The Forum, bassist Pilson responded to thoughts that this lineup is more a Foreigner cover band than it is really Foreigner by encouraging people to come see for themselves. My take is they are a cover band and a damn good one. Like Fargo’s favorite tribute act Hairball, the group knows its material inside and out and plays it with a swagger and energy that the guys who wrote and recorded it originally can no longer muster.
Wednesday’s concert was a fun one and even better when you focused on the music and not who was playing it.