(Live Review) FOREIGNER + LOVERBOY - Tinley Park Illinois (7/22/23)
The Beard & Little Johnny
Today marks the 40th show of concert year 2023, and bands #194-195 on The Beard and Little Johnny’s 2023 The Reviews Never Stop Tour.
This evening the lad and I are in Tinley Park Illinois for a farewell tour.
Foreigner is apparently calling it quits after this tour ends sometime in early 2024. This is more realistically stated as Mick Jones (the only current member of Foreigner in the band prior to 2004) is finally calling it quits for touring. Without Mr. Jones, the rest of the current group are professional accomplished musicians performing in a Foreigner tribute band as the last album released before 2009’s unsuccessful Can’t Slow Down, was ten years before anyone but Mr. Jones was even in the band. Foreigner also hasn’t had a charting hit without Lou Gramm (who other than an occasional guest appearance, hasn’t toured with the band since 2003), on vocals. All that said, like Journey (with Arnel Puneda rather than Steve Perry on vocals), Foreigner still pulls a large crowd who frankly are less interested in the actual people on the stage than they are in hearing their beloved hits played live and loud.
Opening the show were 1980’s rockers Loverboy, who actually have most of their original members still in the band. They just didn’t have as big of hits, (or as many), so although of the two acts they have the authenticity factor, they nevertheless remain the openers.
This has been a LONG dry spell for Little Johnny as over the last few months we have done virtually no death or thrash acts and have attended quite a few shall we say “seasoned” groups. The lad has been appreciative and well behaved, but undoubtedly, we will soon have to get back to shows and bands he personally enjoys. For now, we shall go to the well one more time with classic rock.
Loverboy may be “authentic”, but no one on that stage has been a boy for about a half century. Vocalist Mike Reno may look like Dusty Rhodes now (Ed: Love the appropriate ol' time wrestling reference!), but he still has an acceptable voice as far as clarity. (He may well have been getting help from the magic of technology, but since I don’t know that I must allow for the benefit of the doubt.)
The practiced ease of their quick 45-minute set speaks of a band that’s indeed been doing this a long time and Loverboy certainly fits that bill. A high point of the set was Ken “Spider” Sinnarve and his bass solo. Bass solos generally do not excite me. His was different and fun to watch.
Their final three hits, ("Loving Every Minute of It", "Turn Me Loose", and, of course, "Working for the Weekend"), did bring the crowd alive generating enthusiastic sing-a-longs. Essentially, Loverboy did exactly what you expect a seasoned opener to do. Warm the crowd up, get themselves over on past glory hits, and pick up a check. 77/100.
To my sadness, Mick Jones (original guitarist), only plays intermittently on this tour due to worsening health. Tonight, was NOT one he was apparently able to play. So, this review is going to cover either Foreigner 2.0, or the Foreigner Tribute Band. Take your pick.
The band came out with "Double Vision" which felt slightly off timing wise, but I’ll penalize myself as I did spend most of that number wondering where Mick Jones was and learning he wasn’t going to perform this evening.
"Head Games" was next, and I felt pretty much the same thing. It sounds “like” Foreigner, but not exactly" ... I think I was still processing the “No Mick Jones thing.”
Third up was "Cold as Ice" and the Beard thought that one was pretty good, so I had apparently settled in with the 2.0 line-up. Bruce Watson (lead guitar) was playing well and since Kelly Hanson (vocals) CAN sing a lot like Lou Gramm, I thought “Okay, maybe this will work out.”
"Waiting for a Girl Like You" was okay. Big crowd singalong. I have generally never loved their ballads, so I sort of spent the time looking at the individuals within the 2.0 version of Foreigner.
"Dirty White Boy" was also well done. Watson’s guitar leads were pretty on the mark, Chris Frazier is a talented drummer, and newest member Luis Maldonado served well in the dual capacity of rhythm guitar/backing vocals.
At this point, the set hit a dead stop as they set up for an acoustic portion. They threw in the acoustic number "When it Comes to Love" from their 2009 release, Can’t Slow Down (which at least these guys on stage actually wrote together making it a genuine (this version of Foreigner) number. Ironic that from the release titled Can’t Slow Down, they chose an acoustic slow-down number. Continuing the acoustic set, "Girl on the Moon" was a deep cut from 4. I own that album and don’t remember it.
During the slow numbers, they lost the crowd energy even though these may have been some of the best played to this point. People largely sat down and politely applauded while waiting for the next one they really knew and wanted to sing along with.
"Say You Will Say You Won’t" finished the acoustic portion and as this one was better known and did have some outstanding harmonization from everyone, it was better received by the crowd.
Kelly Hanson, then did a funny rap on how being over 40 was a good thing. He asked the crowd how many remembered rolling up a cassette tape with a pencil and after the loud cheer, he asked “and what number was that pencil?” The crowd happily screamed out “TWO!!”. Neither Johnny, nor the girls in the row in front of us understood what the hell was being discussed. I was admittedly amused by that.
After giving the crowd (largely) a shared memory and inspiring the group dynamic, the band launched into "Feels like the First Time" and here I think they really owned the crowd. Loud response, energy across the stage, and that song may have been the band apex performance number of the evening.
Unfortunately, they followed that with the apparently necessary (but not really), gratuitous guitar solo which, although played well by Watson, took the energy edge down a bit because there was nothing to sing along to until they broke into "Urgent".
There were some big misses in this one. In my opinion, both in the song timing and especially the brass solo portion (which was played through keyboards and not actual saxophone by Michael Bluestein). This left me cold, as the dynamics of a well-played sax solo was what would have cranked the crowd here.
I do enjoy the “floating” light trusses that raise, lower, and rotate thereby constantly giving the stage a different look. That part is very cool, and I don’t often see bands using that technology.
A classical key solo by Bluestein was followed by Frazier’s drum solo and allowed the rest of the band to reset for the big closer of "Juke Box Hero" (where Hansen did the dramatic appearance in the back of the seated crowd section atop a twenty-foot lift stand.) A cool effect, but unfortunately, he then totally blew the lyrics of the first verse. I guess the silver lining was I knew everything he was singing was authentically his real voice, but it’s still pretty bad to blow the opening verse to your big closer number. This also never became a good version despite all the extra effects of smoke, and stylistic guitar trade-offs with bassist Jeff Pilson. Honestly, it was just a bad closing number.
For the encore, Kelly Hansen talked for what seemed like forever about how we were all together and this next song was about love and singing together as one unit before as expected beginning "I Want to Know What Love Is". The Beard will tell you what “Love is”, it’s five minutes and three seconds of dreck. Seriously, that is the WORST Foreigner hit they ever made and their punishment for making it is they now must perform that pile of sappy crap every damn evening.
Now, I know some of you will be mad that the Beard just shit on your favorite Foreigner song. Well, the Beard is sorry. Mostly, he is sorry THAT is your favorite Foreigner song. Raise your standards PLEASE.
After that ugggh…song was FINALLY over, Kelly Hansen sat on the stage and cried as he recounted how much he loved his brothers up there, and that it was sad to be ending this run while they were still on top and playing their best music.
One, you are six guys who only wrote one song in your entire set list. Two, you just blew the lyrics to your closer. Three, never refer to “I Want to Know What Love Is” as the BEST anything, unless it’s perhaps the best reason to head to the bathroom. (Ed: You tell 'em o' Bearded one!)
Finally, they finished with music again as the final number of the encore was "Hot Blooded" complete with so many flame bursts I feared for drummer Chris Frazier and keyboardist Michael Bluestein who were both stuck in their spots while these geysers of flame shot up over and over and over at the end of the song.
In the end, this was a group of practiced, talented, professional caliber musicians performing a generally competent, (and yes, sometimes very good), tribute act to the music of Foreigner. Under such circumstances, the Beard would almost pass on giving a grade at all, but in the interest of evaluating what I saw tonight, I will say some moments were 90+ and some strained to hit 70. Overall, 80/100.
This wraps up event #40, and bands #194-195 of year 2023. Remember to follow each and every Wednesday & Thursday on The Mighty Decibel, and all our subsidiaries. Check out all the videos on our TIKTOK page at Thebeard0728 or #thebeardandlittlejohnny. Until next time.