Legion of Foreigner fans prepare for Harrah’s weekend show
The fans know all Foreigner’s songs, but they might find the band itself a stranger these days.
“Even though people haven’t necessarily forgotten it, they haven’t seen Foreigner for a long time,” said guitarist Mick Jones, the lone remaining founder of a band that has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide.
“I think it’s a more exciting band than I ever remember it being,” said Jones, whose band returns to Harrah’s Lake Tahoe after a year and a half. “It’s a very strong live band now. The only thread in it is the songs are still there, and I think the songs are sounding fresher and a lot more exciting than they’ve sounded in a long time.”
Even the version of Foreigner many remember is likely different than the band that began in 1976. The original sextet had three Brits and three Americans ” hence the name ” and its eponymous debut spawned the singles “Feels Like the First Time” and “Cold as Ice.” The next two albums scored enduring hits in “Hot Blooded,” “Double Vision” and “Head Games.”
By the time Foreigner released “4,” and its singles “Juke Box Hero,” “Waiting for a Girl Like You” and “Urgent,” three of the original members were gone. The band’s biggest hit, “I Want to Know What Love Is,” highlighted lead singer Lou Gramm and had a markedly different sound from its earlier work. Foreigner went on hiatus in the late 1980s.
Foreigner’s output was sporadic throughout the 1990s before Jones re-formed Foreigner in 2003, with singer Kelly Hansen replacing Gramm. Jason Bonham plays drums.
“We met up in L.A., and we just tried jamming together and seeing what came out of it,” Jones said of Bonham. “His enthusiasm kind of started the ball rolling, and then the first member to rejoin was Thom Gimbel.”
The presence of Bonham, Hansen (formerly of Hurricane), Gimbel and bassist Jeff Pilson (a former member of Dokken and Dio) at once gave Foreigner a harder edge and brought the band back to its roots as a rock supergroup.
In Las Vegas, the new lineup visited Foreigner’s standards and came out with “Extended Versions,” a live album with the new lineup playing the band’s greatest hits.
“I think it was vital to kind of bring people’s attention to the fact that this was a bona fide band that not only played the songs but showed off the versatility of the band and the musicianship of the band,” Jones said.
The band has been stable since then, and Bonham no doubt helped Foreigner grab a slot opening for his late dad’s band ” Led Zeppelin ” in December. Foreigner’s also headed back to the studio, and has a retrospective due out in July and a new album after that.
“I feel I still have something to say as far as songwriting goes, and I’m pretty pumped about what we’ve come up with, and I think the public will be,” Jones said. “The band all contribute ideas, and I encourage ideas to come from everybody, which is similar to the way it’s been over the years, and really it’s a question of getting the ideas and then developing them together.”
It’s a different process because Foreigner essentially is a different band.
“Just gradually, as it’s relatively a new band, we have to get familiar with each other’s way of going about it.”
That’s something fans ” even the ones who know all the words to all the songs ” might learn from Foreigner’s two-night stand this weekend at Harrah’s.
“I would tell them that whatever they had in mind, I don’t think they would be at all disappointed,” Jones said. “To the contrary, I think they would be really impressed with the new band. The songs they have heard over the years sound incredibly powerful. I’d say more powerful than I remember them sounding.”