One of the more surprising final tour announcements in 2022 emanated from Foreigner. Unlike such groups on swan song jaunts, such as the Eagles, Aerosmith and Kiss, none of the members of Foreigner are originals, save guitarist-songwriter Mick Jones.
However, Jones, who formed the band in 1976, only performs occasionally, when his health allows. The longest tenured member who performs each show with the group is bassist Jeff Pilson, who joined in 2004. The following year vocalist Kelly Hansen joined the band and is the reason that Foreigner’s current tour, which is slated to end in 2024, is its last.
“It takes a lot to sing and perform these songs at a high standard,” Hansen said from Phoenix. “The Foreigner songs are hard to sing at 30, let alone at 62, which is how old I am. I don’t want to go out there sucking or cheating the audience. I want to finish strong and with pride. I want to serve the legacy of this great band and the last thing I want to do is disappoint anybody.”
It’s a fascinating choice since Foreigner, which will perform Friday at Northern Quest Resort & Casino, is selling out amphitheaters across the country. When Foreigner performed before a capacity crowd of 5,000 at Northern Quest in September 2021, fans were on their feet throughout the concert courtesy of the dynamic Hansen and the catalog of familiar songs. Friday’s show is essentially sold out, with only four seats left as of Wednesday morning.
“I don’t understand bands that just stand there and fail to perform,” Hansen said. “To me, you have to put on a show when you get up onstage.”
Hansen never attempted to emulate original Foreigner vocalist Lou Gramm, who wasn’t the most engaging frontman. Hansen is more like Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, who is all over the stage.
“You can only bounce around like that for so long,” Hansen said. “That kind of performance takes a toll on your body. I’m an acoustic instrument onstage and so is the drummer (Chris Frazier). When you do what we do there’s a lot of wear and tear on your body parts. Everyone and their brother wants me to continue but I’ve had enough.”
So Hansen will forsake big paychecks in favor of moving on with his life. “I have other interests,” Hansen said. “I like to ride motorcycles. I like to make things in the kitchen.”
Hansen won a cooking competition on the Food Network reality show “Chopped” in 2015. “I really enjoyed that,” Hansen said. “I want to focus on other things, like my wife. I recently got married. I’m ready for that next phase. I’ve been with this band for almost 20 years and I’ve been singing professionally for 46 years. I know what is expected from singers but I don’t want to die onstage like a lot of people do. There’s a wide spectrum of things to enjoy out there.”
Foreigner, which also includes keyboardist Michael Bluestein and guitarists Bruce Watson and Luis Maldonado, could conceivably continue on without Hansen. “That’s true,” Hansen said. “Mick can do whatever he wants to do since this band is his baby. This is his life’s work.”
Will Jones replace Hansen? “That’s a question for Mick,” Hansen said.
However, Jones will not conduct an interview, according to his publicist. It’ll be curious if Jones decides to resuscitate the band after Hansen hangs it up.
“All I can say is this is my last tour with Foreigner and as far as I know, the last Foreigner tour,” Hansen said. ” I just want to focus on the songs since they’re so amazing. I’m going to enjoy this final run.”
Expect hit after hit from Foreigner’s first four platinum-plus albums when the group returns to Northern Quest. “Feels Like the First Time,” “Urgent,” “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” “I Want to Know What Love Is” and “Hot Blooded” are part of the set list.
The underrated Jones wrote or co-wrote all of Foreigner’s many classic tunes. “Mick is such a great songwriter,” Hansen said. “His songs are well written, well arranged and well recorded. There’s a reason people keep coming back to hear these songs played live.”
Hansen hopes to slip in some deep tracks during the final run. “I would like to do ‘Break It Up,’ ‘Stranger In My Own House’ and ‘Heart Turns to Stone’,” Hansen said. “But we only have so much time up there. We’re a band that has too many good songs.”
It’s been a long run for Foreigner, which initially experienced success in 1977 the band’s eponymous debut album sold 5 million copies. “Mick never looked back,” Hansen said. “It’s one of those great stories in rock.”
Hansen is adamant that he’ll never look back. “There’s a time when you just have to move on,” Hansen said. “I’m ready for life’s next adventure but I’ll always treasure my time with this band.”