Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jones still integral to Foreigner

Guitarist Mick Jones, 65, showed his chops
during a Foreigner show at the Island Resort and


Foreigner charged through a pair of hits-filled shows during a recent Upper Peninsula stop, relying heavily on the lead guitar work of founding member Mick Jones.

The popular rock band performed the concerts at Island Resort and Casino's showroom in Harris on Feb. 26 and 27.

The 65-year-old Jones is the only member of the original band still performing with the group, founded in 1976.

Fans know Jones is not to be confused with a musician of the same name who served as lead guitarist of the Clash, a British punk band.

Besides Jones, the current line-up consists of Kelly Hansen (lead vocals), Thom Gimbel (rhythm guitar, keyboards, sax and flute), Jeff Pilson (bass), Michael Bluestein (piano) and Brian Tichy (drums).

From left: Pilson, Bluestein, Hansen, Jones, Tichy and Gimbel.

Hansen was formerly frontman for Hurricane, while Pilson played bass for heavy metal bands Dokken and Dio.

Originally comprised of a sextet of British and American musicians, Foreigner was signed by Atlantic Records.

The combo has sold an estimated 70 million albums worldwide and registered 14 Top 40 singles in the United States from 1977 through 1988.

While the band has had numerous personnel changes over the years, including the departure of lead singer and songwriter Lou Gramm, the local audience didn't seem to mind.

Foreigner launched their program with the rocker "Double Vision," a No. 2 hit for the group in the fall of 1978.

Singer Hansen pranced around the stage in Mick Jagger-like fashion, giving the song an extra measure of energy.

Jones delivered several awe-inspiring lead guitar solos during "Head Games," drawing cheers from the audience. "That guy can really play," one fan remarked.


"Head Games" gained heavy airplay in late 1979 and propelled sales of the album of the same name.

Hansen told the crowd the band flew in from New York City amid bad weather to make the Friday gig. Not surprisingly "Cold As Ice" was slotted next on the setlist.

Jones played the distinctive opening keyboard notes.

The 48-year-old Hansen, meanwhile, climbed through a row of seats in the middle section of the theater, high-fiving fans.

Much of the audience stood to applaud the performance.

Foreigner followed with the power ballad "Blue Morning, Blue Day," which reached No. 15 in the early months of 1979. Jones impressed the crowd with another outstanding guitar solo.

The ballad "Waiting for a Girl Like You" came next. The song was a gigantic hit for the group, registering at No. 2 for 10 weeks, but failing to reach the top spot.

The band followed with another ballad, "When It Comes to Love." The number was included on their most recent album, "Can't Slow Down," which was released only at Wal-Mart in the fall of 2009.

Foreigner picked up the pace again with a thunderous take on "Dirty White Boy," the audience singing along. Tichy's drumming was especially effective on the song, originally a hit from in 1979.

The 41-year-old Tichy frequently tossed his drumsticks into the air while playing, rarely failing to catch them on the way down.


Jones introduced "Starrider," which he co-wrote for the group's first album. The guitarist also assumed lead vocals for the song which included suitably spacey use of Foreigner's elaborate light show. Gimbel added a touch of flute to the proceedings.

"Starrider" actually failed as the group's second single but worked impressively in the context of a live show.

The rocking "Feels Like the First Time" followed. The number was the first tune Jones ever wrote and became a No. 4 hit when issued as the debut Foreigner single in 1977.

Another Jones-penned song followed as the band attacked "Urgent," a No. 4 smash in 1981. The studio version featured a sax solo by famed R&B performer Jr. Walker, famous for "Shotgun" and "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)."

For the concert version, Gimbel recreated Walker's blazing solo, dropping to his knees at center stage for emphasis. Fan cheered.

Pianist Bluestein and Tichy enjoyed some time in the spotlight prior to the band's take on "Juke Box Hero." A few lines from Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" were tossed in for good measure.

The Zep tune was added to Foreigner's setlist in 2005 when Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, convinced Jones to reform the band.
The young Bonham also drummed for Foreigner before quitting in 2008.

Foreigner saved their greatest achievement for the encore. They pulled out all the stops for the gospel-flavored "I Want To Know What Love Is," a track on the "Agent Provocateur" album, released in 1984.


The original recording featured the New Jersey Mass Choir and Jennifer Holliday on backing vocals.

In concert, fans sang along as Jones played keyboards on the chart-topping number he composed.

The concert ended in rocking style with the band performing "Hot Blooded," a broadcast staple from 1977.

Equally adept at singing ballads or wailing on rockers, the charismatic Hansen kept the audience's attention throughout the evening.

In addition, Pilson moved about the stage adding his energetic bass playing to the show.

Needless to say, the Foreigner show concentrated on their radio-friendly hits which were performed in a high-energy atmosphere.

Despite an enviable list of recognizable material, Foreigner issued just nine studio albums since their self-titled debut LP appeared in 1977.

In fact, all but two of the evening's songs came from Foreigner's first four albums: "Foreigner," "Double Vision," "Head Games" and "4."


Somehow, Atlantic Records has marketed Foreigner material into 11 different greatest hits packages over the years, the most recent being a two CD set entitled "No End In Sight: The Very Best of Foreigner."

While Foreigner's "hit" period is clearly in the past, Jones proved on stage that he can still rock with the best of 'em.

As the group's 35th anniversary approaches, Foreigner continues to evolve as a viable concert attraction with Mick Jones confidently at the helm.

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