At The Apollo, Manchester, U.K., July 1, 2006

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Europeans gazed with envious eyes over the pond as their American compatriots revelled in the delights of Melodic Rock, while they could only imagine what was being missed. Well, it looks as though times are indeed changing. In the last year, Styx, Kansas, and Journey have all graced European shores for their first dates in well over a quarter of a century… to a fervent and euphoric reaction!

Just as you begin to think things can’t get better, along comes Foreigner to complete the full hand of Melodic Rock giants. It may only be a mere 11 years since Europeans last saw Foreigner, but there have been major upheavals within the band, with the golden-throated Lou Gramm departing for pastures new, leaving only founding member Mick Jones to man the ship. Faced with the choice of starting fresh with a new project, or resurrecting his beloved Foreigner with a new lineup, Mick fortunately plumped for the latter. After many months of touring with the new band to rave reviews, it was time to hit Europe to show fans here what was being missed, and Manchester Apollo was the setting for the last night of the tour.

The Apollo, which is set against a rather rundown backdrop of derelict buildings and drab tower blocks, was buzzing with life and packed with a myriad of people not quite sure of what to expect from the new lineup.

Hitting the stage with a rousing “Double Vision” before launching into a stomping “Head Games” without pausing for breath, one thing was blatantly clear, Foreigner is a band born of renewed vigor and an abundance of enthusiasm. The main question on everyone’s mind was whether or not new boy and former Unruly Child/Hurricane front man Kelly Hansen could cut the mustard. With a Steven Tyler-esque stance, Hansen is a more visual performer than his predecessor, effortlessly striding across the stage and flinging his microphone stand in all of the right ways, and interacting with the audience, even to the extent of jumping into the crowd to lead the conga!!! While it’s all very well in looking the part, Foreigner fans have had high expectations of their singer and demand the best, and it’s here where Hansen really produces the goods. Blessed with a voice most can only dream of and few possess, Hansen bled passion with every note that soared from his throat. A crystal clear and well-balanced sound emphasized his tone and highlighted his range. Hansen, like Steve Augeri in Journey, has proved that a great singer can be replaced while still doing great justice to classic material.

This was no one-man show, however. The dynamics of the band are driven by the rhythm section, featuring none other than Jason Bonham and ex-Dokken/Dio four-stringer, Jeff Pilson. Bonham is a powerhouse, giving that solid backbeat and energy to breathe fresh life into well-loved songs, and he certainly lives up to his illustrious heritage. Jeff Pilson, the Metal Monster of the band, perhaps sums up the new spirit within the camp. His enthusiasm is amazing as he stomped about the stage, banging his head as if he’s joined Slayer by mistake, while raising his fist and punching the air. The man was clearly as excited to be playing on the stage as the crowd are watching.

Long-time keyboardsman Jeff Jacobs provided the colors to the songs, while multi-instrumentalist Tom Gimble provided the versatility to allow Mick Jones the freedom to switch between guitar and keyboards.

The band ran through two hours of platinum-coated classics from the driving Rock of “Dirty White Boy” to the tear-jerking “Waiting For A Girl Like You.” The Pomp-fuelled “Starrider” was simply jaw-dropping, and Jones was given a license to dazzle and he seized the opportunity with both hands and showed what a really underrated talent he is. The keyboard-driven “That Was Yesterday” was lush and smooth, while the up-tempo “Blue Morning Blue Day” was sparkling. “Feels Like the First Time” had the crowd on their feet, nodding their heads along with the ever-lively Pilson perched on the front of the stage.

The rearranged acoustic “Say You Will” saw all six band members stage front to produce possibly the finest six-part harmony witnessed in many a year … truly inspiring and a testament to the talent within the band.

No Foreigner show would be complete without the crown jewels of Melodic Rock. An ultra-funky “Urgent” saw the last of those still seated leap into the air to dance along to the groove, and anyone not tapping their feet by this point had better call out the undertaker! Gimble then unleashed the sax solo to end all solos … a rasping, squealing delight that left the crowd as breathless as he was.

A brief drum/keyboard solo paved the way for the pulsating “Juke Box Hero,” and with a riff that spawned a multitude of air guitarists, the tempo reached fever pitch as the band went into overdrive. Jones riffing away as if his life depended on it before segueing seamlessly into a monstrously heavy version of “Whole Lotta Love.” As the band left the stage, the crowd bayed for more and the ebullient band returned for the encores of “I Wanna Know What Love Is” with Hansen imploring the crowd to act as the choir, before ending with a scorching “Hot Blooded.”

As a band, Foreigner have, in the past, seen their Rock credentials come under the microscope. There’s more to Rock than turning up the volume and feedback to the max. It is passion, dynamics, and energy that counts, and it is these qualities that Foreigner have in abundance. On the night when England were unceremoniously dumped out of the World Cup due to a series of poor team selections, Mick Jones showed what can be done when the right choices have been made. Tonight Manchester witnessed the rebirth of a band of immense talent who revelled in their heritage, yet looked forward to an exciting future.

Watch out for the forthcoming Metal Express Radio interview with Foreigner mainman, Mick Jones.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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