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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Foreigner + Special Guest Gary Hoey live review

Foreigner + Special Guest Gary Hoey live review

 Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, Sterling Heights, MI - Thursday 3rd July, 2013


Foreigner live on stage at Sterling Heights, Freedom Hill Amphitheatre.
Photo: Alun Williams

Every year when Foreigner has come to the Detroit area, I have always tried to catch the show, although last year we missed an appearance here, due to sole original member Mick Jones, undergoing some medical treatment that had followed his heart bypass surgery in February 2012.

Sadly we had also missed the previous year’s performance, with Journey and Night Ranger when my mother was taken ill and Rhonda and I had to make an unscheduled trip back to the UK to be at her bedside.
In fact, on that tour which was the precursor to Mick’s surgery, he missed a lot of shows and Night Ranger’s Joel Hoekstra actually stepped in for Mick on many dates.
So another year on, what does this tour bring us?

Well, tonight’s show has the extremely talented – So I understood before the gig, but had never seen for myself until tonight … – Gary Hoey and his band opening for Foreigner.
He opens with an old classic blues rocker, ‘Goin’ Down,’ which gets my attention right away, nicely done!

Gary Hoey live at Freedom Hill, Sterling Heights - Photo: Alun Williams 

Then I’m stunned as he starts jamming ‘Lunatic Fringe,’ yes the old Red Rider / Tom Cochrane track, it misses keys but the fact that he goes out and gives it a go has my respect!

Then it’s to some of his originals in the shape of new tune and title track of his forthcoming album, ‘Deja Blues,’ which is a laid back style instrumental followed by another original in ‘Peace Pipe.’
For a three piece outfit, they make a great combined sound I must say.
He tells a story about losing his wallet that contained a sum total of sixteen dollars and how he couldn’t believe he’d done it, with his driver’s license and credit card in, but then someone return returned it and he gave them the sixteen bucks as a reward and his story about bad luck leads into his version of ‘Born Under a Bad Sign.’
I loved Pat Travers version of this tune and Gary’s is certainly enjoyable too.

More originals come in the shape of ‘Reaction,’ ‘Stranger’ and ‘You Turn Me On,’ the latter track starting out not unlike AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck!’
Some really nice lead work from the guy continues to impress.

With another cover in the form of ‘Lowrider,’ Gary Hoey introduces his band, with Brad Russell a Detroit native on bass and Matt Scurfield on drums.


The Gary Hoey Band live in Detroit, well, Sterling Heights actually!
Photo: Alun Williams

Wow! He’s certainly working the covers angle with the crowd, with ‘Hocus Pocus,’ by Focus next and to wrap things up, we get a little tribute to the troops ahead of the 4th July with the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ done (Jimi) Hendrix style closely followed by Hendrix classic ‘Foxy Lady,’ to close rather good set by Gary Hoey and band.

So to Foreigner ...

I’ve really missed seeing Foreigner live even if there is only one original member left in Mick Jones and when he doesn’t come out on stage at the start, I’m thinking this isn’t good, what now?

Bruce Watson – From UK rockers Big Country - enters the stage instead and immediately as confused as I am, I get a text from a friend here tonight saying, ‘No Mick Jones? Did you know? The guy behind me said he’s had a heart attack?!’

I fear the worst and wondering how the hell the rest of the band could continue if this is the case, I text back saying I have no idea. I look online, for news through my phone, I contact my wife at home who couldn’t make it tonight and we find nothing …
Now the night seemed soured with the not knowing ….
 Sure ‘Double Vision’ sounded good, but where’s Mick and is he alright?

Bruce Watson onstage in place of Mick Jones ... - Photo: Alun Williams

‘Head Games’ follows and I can’t knock the band, but my mind is kind of elsewhere at this point … I wish I knew what was going on ...?!
Kelly Hansen jokes about swallowing two bugs already tonight, sorry Kelly, but what is going on, that’s what I’m thinking about right now.


Kelly Hansen, Detroit bug eater! - Photo: Alun Williams

‘Cold As Ice’ next is a great jam, with some fantastic keyboard work from Michael Bluestein.
They then slow things down with Kelly saying ‘grab someone’s hand or hold someone, as we’re slowing thing down here for ya.’ Cue ‘Waiting For A Girl Like You.’

I get a text from my wife saying she still can’t find anything current about Mick Jones ...

Kelly rips on the crowd for ‘sitting on your asses …’
You have just played a ballad dude, come on?!

‘Blue Morning, Blue Day,’ next certainly gets most people on their feet and Kelly is taking advantage of everyone in the front row reaching out to him to touch their hand …
Again, the band is faultless in their presentation, it still seems wrong without Mick, but that’s me …

Kelly Hansen uses pretty much the same line he uses all the time next when he messes with the crowd talking about, ‘Are there any crazy, sexy women in the crowd tonight?’ Huge screams of response and he replies with, ‘Well that’s good ‘cos we’ve got some ‘Dirty White Boys’ up on stage here!’ Cue song …. It does indeed rock!

Then Kelly – Clearly interacting pretty well with the crowd. – says ‘the next song is one that was originally all electric, but our man Mr. Jeff Pilson here took it and rearranged it like this!’Bring on an all-acoustic version of ‘Say You Will.’

Acoustic time above, with Foreigner playing 'Say You Will.' - Photo's: Alun Williams
It’s time for introductions next as Kelly introduces Chris Frazier (Ex-Whitesnake) on drums, on keyboards Michael Bluestein, ‘on bass guitar and yes, he was in the movie ‘Rock Star’ alongside Mark Wahlberg, and yes he was in Dokken as an original member and he was in Dio .. Mr. Jeff Pilson!’

‘Next up the man who can play every instrument, with his hands or lips and has been a part of Foreigner for the past twenty years, give it up for Tom Gimbel!’
 Then Bruce Watson is introduced and I’m wondering if Kelly will at least have the decency to acknowledge Mick Jones, which of course he indeed does ...

‘… Finally, would you please give it up for the man who’s not been well lately and is only able to play part-time for Foreigner right now, but he’s the man who started it all, so please give it up for MICK JONES!!!!’
Massive response! Huge!

Mick Jones, the original Foreigner! Welcome back to Detroit!
Photo: Alun Williams

This jumps into ‘Feels Like The First Time’ next and sorry, but it’s sounding and feeling way better for me already!

Next Kelly, Tom, Jeff and Bruce all leave the stage leaving just Mick, Chris (Drums) and Mike (Keys) to provide the lead in to what becomes ‘Urgent.’Back comes the band with Tom Gimbel playing some very impressive saxophone and Mick remains with us – a good thing! – and a keyboard solo from Michael Bluestein, which is pretty impressive.

Mick Jones and Bruce Watson (Top) and Tom Gimbel and Mick (Bottom) making it 'Urgent!'
Photo's: Alun Williams

It’s drum solo time next from Chris Frazier and he stops for a drink which he proceeds in pouring it out on his drums and then lets rip by hitting the skins significantly, which splashes up very effectively in the white spotlights around the drums. Sweet!

Chris Frazier gets a solo spot! - Photo: Alun Williams

Back comes the full band for ‘Juke Box Hero,’ with Mick cranking some seriously heavy guitar riffs indeed!
It’s a track that has always rocked out and it does so, very well indeed especially Mick’s riffs / solo at the end of the song. Excellent and tis closes the set.

The band comes out once more and Mick steps up to the microphone to add some very moving comments.
‘Thank you! It’s great to be back in Detroit! I was thinking I would never get to play here again, you’re great, thank you all!’You have no idea Mick, how many people you probably moved right there!

Mick Jones and Kelly Hansen, the Foreigner frontmen. - Photo: Alun Williams

Long, Long way from Home’ kicks in next, one of the first songs to break through for the band and yes, it’s indeed still every inch a winner!

Kelly invites everyone in the crowd to come on down to the front of the stage to join them ‘to sing along with this next song,’ then the band bring out a local choir from Livonia, on the west side of Detroit to sing, ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’ and I have to say, it is monster!!!


Foreigner with a local kids choir from Livonia. Detroit folks, see someone you know?
 Photo: Alun Williams

They close the evening with the stage drenched in red lights for ‘Hot Blooded!’
Kelly is slapping hand after hand at the front of the stage and for this number; Jeff Pilson has taken over Mike Bluestein’s keys while Mike takes over the role of bass player on the final song of the night.


What a great finale to a night that started with many folks very concerned as to the whereabouts of Mick Jones, but who were then very pleased indeed to see the man come out onstage even if it was towards the end of the set.

I know Mick is no spring chicken, but I hope we see him around again next year, praying for it Mick!
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Very entertaining night!

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