Foreigner at Ruoff Music Center 07/21/23 - The Historic Farewell Tour
Photos by Laura Fox (LLFoxphotos)
Review by Dave Fox
When I told someone at work I was excited about going to Foreigner's Historic Farewell Tour at Ruoff Music Center Friday night, he replied that he had decided not to go because "none of the original members are on this tour." I told him I thought he was making a big mistake, and I was right.
My wife and I have seen Foreigner several times, starting back in the 1980s, and every time has been better than the last. Their show Friday night was by far the best; if this is truly their farewell tour, they are going out with a bang!
The set began with frontman Kelly Hansen leaping off the stairs at the beginning of "Double Vision." What a great way to start! Hansen, who became Foreigner's lead vocalist in 2005, is a fantastic performer. Wearing his trademark stars & stripes scarf, he strutted back and forth across the stage, swung his mike stand around, pointed directly to people in the crowd, and looked as though he was having the time of his life.
In between songs, Hansen told jokes and stories that were entertaining and engaging.
He also got people singing along, and even hugging perfect strangers. He made a few jokes about being old, which were fair because I would put the average age of the audience at about 55.
It was a little strange seeing bassist/keyboardist Jeff Pilson perched on a bar stool, but Hansen spun a tale about Pilson suffering a bizarre accident, which was not at all true. I don't know if he tells a different story at each venue, but both the crowd and the band got a good laugh out of it.
One of the things that give a band like Foreigner such staying power, even through the the lineup changes, is the quality of the music. Between rockers like "Cold as Ice" and "Dirty White Boy," and ballads like "Waiting for a Girl Like You," all the tunes in their 13-song set were mega hits, and everyone was singing along to them.
Another thing that keeps Foreigner fans loyal is the fact that these guys are true musicians. Drummer Chris Frazier, keyboardist Michael Bluestein and guitarists Bruce Watson and Luis Maldonado put on outstanding performances, including killer drum and guitar solos by Frazier and Watson at the start of "Jukebox Hero." My wife commented that the drum solo was like "audio fireworks." We both especially liked the way they changed up some of the songs, such as giving latin vibe to the acoustic version of "Say You Will," and adding a keytar and cowbell to "Urgent." (Because we all need more cowbell.)
The set wouldn't have been complete without a youth choir joining the band on stage for "I Want to Know What Love Is." The young men and women from (somewhat) nearby Batesville, Indiana, competed with other choirs for this honor, and did a great job on stage. The choir also received funds for their music program as part of Foreigner's initiative to promote music programs in schools.
The night ended with a rollicking version of "Hot Blooded." Although we'll be sad if Foreigner never tours again, we're glad we got to see them on this tour, and will cherish all the memories we have from the music they made.
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