August 20, 2019

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Foreigner ready to melt the ice

Arena-rockers willing to sacrifice their warmth for concert in wintry Winnipeg

Classic rock band Foreigner’s 2019 Cold as Ice tour, so-named for the second single from their eponymously titled debut album, touches down at Bell MTS Place on Saturday night.

Given the overnight low in downtown Winnipeg is projected to be a knee-knocking -25 C, here’s a head-scratcher: whose bright idea was it to send Foreigner on a winter tour of the Great White North, when they could just as easily traversed these parts in June or July under the banner of another of their smash hits, Hot Blooded?

“That’s actually a good question,” says Foreigner’s lead singer Kelly Hansen from his home in Los Angeles where the temperature on the day of our chat was “in the high 50s (Fahrenheit), not crazy warm but nice.

“Plus, I’ll be making my way to Canada for the tour (which kicked off in Vancouver Feb. 22) straight from the southern Grenadines. My plan is to layer.”

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Classic rock band Foreigner’s 2019 Cold as Ice tour, so-named for the second single from their eponymously titled debut album, touches down at Bell MTS Place on Saturday night.

Concert preview

Click to Expand

Foreigner
Saturday, 8 p.m.
Bell MTS Place
Tickets: $81.50-$105 (including fees) at Ticketmaster.ca

Urgent, urgent... Emergency!

Do you have already have your tickets to see Foreigner on Saturday night at Bell MTS Place? If so, you’re eligible for a meet-and-greet with the band, prior to their performance. According to their management, time is of the essence: send an email to david.sanderson @freepress.mb.ca before 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, indicating which section of the arena your seats are in, and we’ll enter you in a contest to meet the guys. We’ll also award a second person a copy of the CD Foreigner: The Juke Box Heroes Tour.

Best of luck.

Given the overnight low in downtown Winnipeg is projected to be a knee-knocking -25 C, here’s a head-scratcher: whose bright idea was it to send Foreigner on a winter tour of the Great White North, when they could just as easily traversed these parts in June or July under the banner of another of their smash hits, Hot Blooded?

"That’s actually a good question," says Foreigner’s lead singer Kelly Hansen from his home in Los Angeles where the temperature on the day of our chat was "in the high 50s (Fahrenheit), not crazy warm but nice.

"Plus, I’ll be making my way to Canada for the tour (which kicked off in Vancouver Feb. 22) straight from the southern Grenadines. My plan is to layer."

Formed in 1976 by British guitarist Mick Jones, the group’s lone original member, Foreigner laid claim to the top of the pop charts for much of the next decade, thanks to radio-friendly blockbusters such as Feels Like the First Time, Dirty White Boy and Say You Will.

How popular were they in their heyday? Well, with worldwide sales of 80 million records, including nine top-10 hits and seven multi-platinum albums, a Rolling Stone writer may have put it best when he once opined, "Boston, Heart and Styx, among others, deserve equal credit for inventing ‘70s arena-rock, but no band has parlayed the sound of the stadiums with such dependable smarts as Foreigner."

While the band still writes and records — in 2018 they released a pair of albums, Foreigner with the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra & Chorus and Foreigner: The Juke Box Heroes Tour — Hansen, who joined the band in 2005, says the current, seven-piece unit is primarily a touring entity.

Foreigner founder and lead guitarist Mick Jones

ROBERT E. KLEIN / INVISION / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES

Foreigner founder and lead guitarist Mick Jones

"We’re on the road a good seven or eight months of the year; to us, it’s really about the show," he says. "When you think of the way the music industry was when Foreigner first came on the scene; I mean, back then a band would spend a good chunk of the year making an album, then they’d go on tour for two or three months in the summertime to promote it. Then they’d get back in the studio and do the same thing all over again. But because of the way digital streaming and downloads are these days, the revenue stream a band used to get off physical sales has pretty much dried up, so it really is important groups tour a lot longer."

While it’s true Foreigner has torn through their catalogue of crowd-pleasers countless times, Hansen says one thing that continues to energize him and his bandmates night after night is the sea of young faces they spot in the crowd — teenagers who seemingly know every last word to guitar-charged rockers such as Head Games or ballads such as Waiting for a Girl Like You.

"What’s great is most of these kids are coming to the shows on their own, they haven’t been dragged there by their mom or dad," he says with a chuckle. "I think placement of Foreigner tunes in movies, commercials and TV shows helps. Plus, the musical (Jukebox Hero: The Musical, a coming-of-age production that features 16 of the Foreigner’s best-known tunes, recently concluded a five-night run at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre) is creating a lot of buzz and introducing people to the band in a new, exciting way."

Foreigner lead vocalist Kelly Hansen

ROBERT E. KLEIN / INVISION / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES

Foreigner lead vocalist Kelly Hansen

Hansen concedes a highlight of every Foreigner show is when the band breaks into I Want to Know What Love Is, their No. 1 smash from the 1984 album Agent Provocateur. As has occurred in other cities around the globe, Saturday’s show will include a local chorus, in this instance the seven-member jazz choir from Shaftesbury High School, who will do their best to replicate the gospel feel of that tuneful track.

"That’s something that started off as something we did from time to time but because the reaction to it was always so positive, we’ve now made a point of doing it at every show," Hansen explains. "Not only is it great to see the looks on the kids’ faces, most of whom are performing in front of a large audience for the first time, but we also do it to raise awareness about the lack of funding for music programs in schools." (According to an official press release, Foreigner will donate $500 to the Shaftesbury choir for taking part in the concert. Additionally, choir members will be selling Foreigner CDs in the concourse prior to the show with 100 per cent of the proceeds going to Foreigner’s charity partner, The Grammy Foundation.)

 

Vocalist Hansen will be front and centre when Foreigner takes the stage at the Bell MTS Place Saturday night.

ROBERT E. KLEIN / INVISION / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES

Vocalist Hansen will be front and centre when Foreigner takes the stage at the Bell MTS Place Saturday night.

One more thing; although original singer Lou Gramm, once described as the "Pavarotti of the power ballad," won’t be part of the fun this time around (last fall, Foreigner staged a hugely successful Then and Now tour, during which Gramm and Hansen traded turns at the microphone), Hansen says fans shouldn’t rule out the possibility of hearing Gramm accompanied by his Foreigner mates once again, sometime in the not-too-distant future.

"With us, the door has always been open for guys from the original lineup to come and sit in," says Hansen, who performed with ‘90s rockers Hurricane and Unruly Child before joining Foreigner. (Given the fact he’s never been to Winnipeg before, he laughs and says, "I guess it will be apropos, won’t it?" when he sings Feels Like the First Time.)

"I think fans really enjoy seeing the ‘old’ guys play and perform. Plus, when it does happen, it becomes an opportunity for all of us to rally around this singular purpose, which is keeping the legacy of Foreigner alive for years to come."

david.sanderson@freepress.mb.ca

David Sanderson

Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.

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