When Foreigner released "I Want to Know What Love Is" from the Agent Provocateur album at 1985, the group came at a time for me where I was too young to appreciate their older material (I moved on to heavy metal as my musical choice while they were at their peak). But when Mick Jones started the band in 1976 and had Lou Gramm singing the songs, I had no idea their previous albums (4, Head Games, Double Vision and Foreigner) were multi-platinum and had Top 20 hits on each of them. The band has continued playing through the years, but success has become more fleeting, and Gramm has spent more time away from the band since the late '80s, reuniting for an occasional project.
The band has had a host of personnel movements through the years other than Gramm's departure - Jones is the only one left from the original lineup. But the musicians that have worked with the band through the years is a surprising list of notables, among them being Thomas Dolby (of the '80s hit "She Blinded Me With Science"), Jason Bonham, son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John, and Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson to name a few. Gramm was eventually replaced by Kelly Hansen, former singer of the band Hurricane. Gramm's voice is discernible even among artists of the era, so naturally Hansen would have some big shoes to fill. Hansen, Jones and the other band members gave it the proverbial college try as part of the PBS Soundstage series recently, and the track listing is as follows:
"Cold as Ice"
"Waiting for a Girl Like You"
"Say You Will"
"Long, Long Way From Home"
"Blue Morning, Blue Day"
"Dirty White Boy"
"Feels Like the First Time"
"Juke Box Hero"
"I Want to Know What Love Is"
The biggest question to answer for those who like Foreigner is whether or not Hansen delivers, and he manages to do well for himself. I would walk away from the television while the concert was on, and it sounded like Gramm with a more refined vocal. Additionally, the newer material like "Too Late" didn't sound shabby either. Hansen's voice may not be a carbon copy of Gramm's, but he's not that far off. As for the band itself, Jones is the main conductor of the group, and while I find it hilarious when anyone in his 50s wears sunglasses on stage, he's the one who's most familiar with the material, what works and what doesn't. There's a reason why in this set most of the songs in it are from those first four albums.
Ultimately, Foreigner does manage to perform better than I expected them to. I don't know if I would line up at the door to pick up their next album or anything, but I think I'd wind up getting it because what they'd put out might impress me. That could be the '80s arena rock junkie in me, but I could be wrong.
Foreigner's performance from Soundstage is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, presumably in line for whatever high definition presentation that PBS was planning. The concert looks sharp and accurately replicated from the broadcast, with no edge enhancements or artifact issues that I noticed. The concert was shot in high definition, so one would expect a solid presentation, and it comes through.
You get the choice of a two-channel stereo track or a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. The music sounds good here. While I didn't pick up any specific direction for the guitars and vocals, the music sounds crisp, vocals are strong and maintain a good balance, and it's a solid sounding concert.
Nary a supplement to speak of.
Some bands will bring on a new singer as an excuse to trot out old material. Foreigner's new singer not only manages to do the hits justice, but gently directs the audience towards the newer stuff as well. It's like any other endeavor, if a couple of people are turned on to what the new version of the band is doing, then it probably qualifies as a success. Fans of the band should check out how it looks now and may be pleasantly surprised.