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Review: A Mick Jones-less Foreigner 2.0 rocks a packed Northern Quest

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 17, 2021

Kelly Hansen, lead vocalist, on left, and lead guitarist Bruce Watson, with the legendary rock band Foreigner, perform at the Spokane County Interstate Fair in 2019.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Kelly Hansen, lead vocalist, on left, and lead guitarist Bruce Watson, with the legendary rock band Foreigner, perform at the Spokane County Interstate Fair in 2019. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

During a recent chat with Gene Simmons, I asked the KISS icon if his legendary band could continue after he retires. Simmons revealed that there are plans for a KISS 2.0 when he hangs up his bass.

Well, Simmons, 72, has been beat to the punch since there is now a Foreigner 2.0. Lone original member Mick Jones, who has been the mastermind behind the band since its inception nearly a half century ago, is only performing when his health allows.

Jones, 76, was not part of Foreigner’s concert Thursday night at the sold-out Northern Quest Resort & Casino. The 5,000 fans didn’t seem to mind as Foreigner played the hits without its leader.

Foreigner performing without an original member is perhaps a peek into the future of many rock acts. Keeping a group together with fresh, young talent is a way for the band, er brand, to continue cash flow.

Not all recording artists will be down with that. It’s impossible to imagine a Nirvana 2.0 or a new version of the Beastie Boys sanctioned by the surviving members of those critically acclaimed groups since they would have integrity issues.

But many recording artists don’t operate that way. I knew the moment I heard Glenn Frey died that the Eagles would perform without an integral member. Too much filthy lucre is on the table.

Regarding Foreigner, Jones handpicked each member of the band, and looking back at the history of the group, there was one indispensable member. Sure, original singer Lou Gramm’s voice was a big part of the Foreigner sound, and he co-wrote some tunes, but Jones was the sonic architect.

Jones, who decided to meld rock, pop and touches of R&B, crafted an array of hits. The prolific Brit doesn’t receive enough credit for crafting a staggering amount of well-constructed smashes, which remain resonant today.

Since the songs have long-term appeal, should they be performed like a Broadway play after its original members depart? Well, “Hamilton” continues without Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Foreigner delivered a spirited show in a chilly environment. The Jones-less version of the band is energetic and technically sound. Guitarist Bruce Watson kicked off the 92-minute show, with the jazz chord that is pumped with ferocity at the start of the fiery “Double Vision.”

The hits were covered with “Feels Like the First Time,” “Juke Box Hero” and “I Want to Know What Love Is.” The show peaked with “Urgent,” Jones’ finest hour as a writer. Michael Bluestein’s keytar solo filled the void of the tremendous sax solo by Junior Wells, which appears on the recorded version.

It’s difficult to believe that it’s 40 years old. It was a greatest-hits show, but Foreigner was wise enough to include a couple of excellent B-sides, “Blue Morning, Blue Day” and “Long, Long Way From Home.”

However, the pat patter from vocalist Kelly Hansen is way too much. The capable vocalist, who is obviously influenced by Steven Tyler with his look, scarves and movement, spoke to the audience for 16 minutes, 29 seconds, which calculates conversations in between songs throughout the evening.

I’m all for connecting with the audience but much of what Hansen delivered is what he obviously says each night. Toward the end of the set, Hansen commented about how this unique experience will be headed up into the heavens. But he will undoubtedly repeat himself in Bend and Kennewick.

Sure, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and Cher speak to their fans between songs, but it’s obvious that those veteran entertainers are in the moment. Sixteen minutes is at least three if not four songs.

Instead of riffing about how great it is to be back in front of a crowd after a year-and-a-half for the third time, how about playing “Starrider”? But it’s obviously up to Jones since there’s little doubt he micromanages Foreigner whether or not he’s on the road with his band.

Our local East Valley High School Choir performed at 7 p.m. before Foreigner hit the stage.

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