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.
AVC encoded and appearing in 1080i on a 1.78:1 widescreen presentation, the performance looks solid. Going back in memory to the standard definition disc that looked strong on its own, this juggles image detail and clarity well. It reproduces skin tones accurately and clarity in the darker sequences is good. There is a bit of image noise at times in the disc but nothing to be concerned about. If you have the SD disc and are thinking of upgrading frankly I wouldn't bother, but on its own, the Blu-ray disc is fine.
There is an uncompressed PCM two-channel mix or a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track for your ears to devour. Most of the action occurs in the front of the soundstage and sounds clear without fear of inconsistency. The directional effects and channel panning are slightly lacking, but there is enough immersion in the rear channels (with crowd noise) to convince one that they were at the show. You aren't going to get wowed by the track, but it's solid in its effort.
When it comes to this disc, the extras are cold as ice.
Foreigner Live was a pleasant surprise on Blu-ray when it came to the performance aspects of the show. They played the hits, there was some youth and vitality injected into them, and if I closed my eyes, it's like Lou Gramm was doing the tunes. Technically it's solid, but not too big a leap in quality that double-dipping is warranted. At the very least, it's worth checking out to enjoy some quality music.