Foreigner Close Two-Week Detroit Residency With Hits and Rarities During Special Acoustic Gig
Foreigner are out on the road this summer as the main support on Kid Rock’s Cheap Date tour. By the time the tour made its way to Rock’s home turf of Detroit in August, there were a lot of dates on the hometown calendar -- 10 sold-out shows to be exact. Fans snapped up an estimated 145,000 tickets to the concerts at DTE Energy Music Theatre, setting a new record for the most tickets sold in a single season. Rock also broke the record for the most shows played by a single act in one summer, snatching the title from his pal Bob Seger, who previously held the record with eight shows at DTE.
“It’s like Groundhog Day in a way,” Foreigner founder and guitarist Mick Jones chuckled during a backstage chat with Ultimate Classic Rock. “It gives everybody a chance to hang out, and it’s a great atmosphere backstage [with] all of the crew, staff and musicians. And Kid Rock himself, he’s a very impressive guy. He’s multi-talented, and he’s a great showman and a great performer. I’d never really seen him perform before, so I had a bit of a wake-up call.”
The pairing of Rock with Foreigner might have been a bit surprising, but it’s a combination that actually makes a lot of sense if you're aware of Rock's love of both classic rock and music history. Jones says the tour has been equally beneficial for both sides. "I think the audience knew all of our songs, and they’re singing along with them," he says. "It opened up a slightly different market for us, and I think for Kid Rock, [it has] spread his audience perhaps [to] a slightly older demographic.”
The band found itself with a couple of open days on the tour schedule at the end of the Detroit run, when an offer from Ford Motor Company to do something for the JDRF charity came up. It's something close to their hearts, since the group does a large amount of charity work and their tour manager’s daughter has had diabetes since she was 2.“We kind of know the history and what a terrible kind of encumbrance it is to have this, especially for kids, babies and children who have it all of their life, and there’s no upside to it," he says.
Foreigner played a special acoustic show on Monday at the Ford Motor Company Conference and Event Center in Dearborn, Mich., that will be released as a live album in early 2016 called The Hits Unplugged and Live. The title of the set gives a pretty good hint at what might be on the agenda, but when the band took the stage in front of the intimate audience of 250 people, it revealed a few surprises.
There were also plenty of stories, with Jones sharing that “Long, Long Way From Home,” the second song of the night, had been the first one that he wrote with the other members of the developing band that would become Foreigner, before they went into the studio to record the songs that would appear on their 1977 debut. It was a song that he said, “encapsulates the beginning of Foreigner.”
Meanwhile, “Waiting for a Girl Like You” delivered one of Foreigner’s most distinct milestones, as Jones revealed. When it was released as a single in October 1981, it rose all the way to No. 2 and remained there for a record-setting 10 weeks, held out of the top spot by Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical.” Jones also recalled the mysterious woman who appeared in the control room when Lou Gramm was recording his vocals for the track in the studio. She disappeared as Gramm wrapped up the winning take, and neither Gramm nor Jones would ever learn who she was. “We owe that young lady a big thank you for providing the inspiration,” Jones told the audience.
With seven members onstage, the music had a surprisingly thick sound for what some might have expected to be a stripped-down presentation. Jones was joined on guitar by second guitarist Bruce Watson (who would also play a good bit of mandolin), bassist Jeff Pilson (who also played guitar and took the lead on working out the acoustic arrangements for many of the songs and deserves kudos for his stretched out bass solo on “Cold As Ice” that really showed off his jazzy chops) and multi-instrumentalist Tom Gimbel, who alternated between a variety of instruments, including guitar and saxophone and even a lengthy flute intro on “Say You Will,” from the 1988 Inside Information album.
Singer Kelly Hansen, who recently proved his kitchen skills are just as impressive as his vocal abilities with a winning appearance on the television program Chopped, referenced that victory by quipping, “We’re all cookin’ up here -- not just me!”
And he wasn’t kidding -- there were at times as many as six voices blending together on the vocal harmonies and with keyboardist Michael Bluestein and drummer Chris Frazier (on light percussion) adding additional support, it was indeed, a true musical team effort.
Jones gave Hansen some well-deserved praise during the band intros, noting that “he’s been able to bring these songs back to life.” Hansen would later offer his own tribute to Jones during the two-song encore, telling the audience, “I think that Mick is just starting to realize what these songs mean to people. This song is probably the pinnacle of his work,” as he introduced a soul stirring version of “I Want to Know What Love Is” that featured additional vocals from members of the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit.
Whether it was the familiar classics (“Cold as Ice,” “Double Vision” and “Feels Like the First Time”) or the less familiar (“Girl on the Moon” from 1981’s 4 LP and “Fool for You Anyway” from the debut, the nearly 80-minute performance proved that there’s a good reason that Jones and his former collaborator, Lou Gramm, were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Their combined body of work stands tall nearly 40 years after the world heard their first songs, and the current version of Foreigner represents that legacy well.
The Dearborn performance captured a certain lightning in a bottle that felt awfully close to perfect. There were no do-overs or second takes, and it’s hard to imagine that they’ll have to fix anything, which means that what you’re going to hear on the upcoming live album next year is going to be a real treat -- and one that will be an especially special souvenir for all of those who were lucky enough to experience it.
Foreigner, Dearborn, Mich., Aug. 24, 2015, Set List
"Long, Long Way From Home"
"Say You Will"
"Waiting for a Girl Like You"
"When It Comes to Love"
"Fool for You Anyway"
"Dirty White Boy"
"That's All Right"
"Girl on the Moon"
"Cold as Ice"
"Feels Like the First Time"
"Juke Box Hero"
"I Want to Know What Love Is"
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