concert reviews

A Faux Foreigner Makes Itself at Home
Foreigner at the Birchmere, Alexandria, VA, Tuesday 7 June 2005

It seems questionable for a band to replace original key members and still retain its name. At a series of Queen reunion shows last month, for instance, Bad Company's Paul Rodgers stood in for the irreplaceable Freddie Mercury. Along the same lines, the group that performed as Foreigner on Tuesday night at the Birchmere contained only one original member -- guitarist Mick Jones. The new six-piece band included vocalist Kelly Hansen of Hurricane and drummer Jason Bonham, son of the late Led Zeppelin percussionist John Bonham.

Despite the new setup, the musicians didn't seem at all awkward together, perhaps because they've had more than two decades to familiarize themselves with the music they performed. The group's 90-minute set included 14 of Foreigner's biggest hits, the most recent of which, "I Want to Know What Love Is," was released in 1984. At its best, the band captured the essence of the original Foreigner; on an angsty "Blue Morning, Blue Day," Hansen's rich vocals soared over a growling guitar line. More often, though, the group sounded more like a Foreigner tribute band, delivering note-perfect but uninspired versions of "Cold as Ice" and "Double Vision."

The group performed two solid tributes to Led Zeppelin: a verse of "Whole Lotta Love" woven into "Jukebox Hero" and an energetic cover of "Misty Mountain Hop" to kick off the encore. Perhaps if touring as Foreigner doesn't work out, the group can perform as a Led Zeppelin tribute band instead.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 9 June 2005
.: Selected discography: Agent Provocateur (Foreigner, 1984); 4 (Foreigner, 1981); Head Games (Foreigner, 1979); Double Vision (Foreigner, 1978); Foreigner (Foreigner, 1977).