The Palace Theatre
March 7, 2018
by Ed Thompson
When Kelly Hansen hit the stage, there are only two words that can be used to describe him. And that’s “Energizer Bunny”. It’s truly a very easy assumption to come to after just watching Hansen and his band mates blow the roof off the Palace Theatre.
Thursday, Foreigner hit the stage in Greensburg PA at The Palace Theatre (about 40 miles outside of Pittsburgh PA) at 810pm and Kelly’s feet don’t stop moving till close to 11pm when he took a seat backstage to down a well-deserved bottle of water and take a nice deep breath probably thinking about the 2 hour show he just put on and how to make it better the next night in Atlantic City NJ.
Hansen and company opened with “Double Vision” and from the first note set the tone for the remained of the night. FAST and FURIOUS. Hansen’s voice was in top notch form. The band opened this leg of the winter/spring tour a few weeks ago down in Texas at the McAllen Center on February 22nd. 14 days later and only 9 shows into the tour, the band sounded like they were in mid tour form. Which is kind of surprising since they have only been off the road and taking a well-deserved break since ending the official 40th anniversary tour November 17th down in Mississippi. Since we are tossing around dates and days of importance, another one that Hansen pointed out tonight was that 41 years ago, on March 8, 1977l (I was 8 hears old by the way) “Feels Like The First Time” was released and went to #4 on The Billboard tops hits that year. But we’ll get back to Feels Like The First Time a little later.
Double Vision continues to be “that song” that works for the band to open their sets. It’s been a few years now and as a casual Foreigner fan, it still works for me and appeared to work for the 4000 or so hard-core fans in Greensburg last night. Hansen seems to be able to get the crowd in the palm of his hand and keep them there from start to finish for the full two plus hours. The energy has A LOT to do with it. But vocally, Kelly is in top notch form. His voice is STRONG. And I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Hansen was the perfect replacement for Lou Gramm. He has replaced Lou and has done it well and respectfully. There are many times throughout any show, that you can close your eyes and fell Lou’s presence in the arena.
Hansen rocked though Double Vision followed by a very powerful Head Game and Cold As Ice. A nice surprise and new addition to this tours setlist is Waiting For A Girl Like You. New to this set list yes. Incredible? Absolutely. It’s a nice change in gear for Hansen and the band early in the 14 song set list. And I must say, Kelly Hansen OWNS this song. He simply takes the crowd and places them in the palm of his hand on this song and really kills it. It’s a great addition and one that I really think is great. From a nice slow ballad, the notch is turn back up for one song on Dirty White Boys. Also new on this tour is an acoustic version of Say You Will which much like Waiting For A Girl Like You, Hansen crushes and make his own. Truly a show of just how talented and vocally gifted Kelly Hansen is.
At this point of the show, Hansen slows it down and takes to the mic and explains to the crowd that while yes, they are all mostly above the age of 40, and possibly even 50 or 60 years old (Hansen was born in 1961 and is 56), Kelly explains that if they are going to, “Now is the time to stand the F&CK UP!!” Laughing, he explains that like himself, he understands that “we are all old” but this next song would be one that they will want to stand up for. And with that, they went into the 41 year old “Feels Like The First Time”………And the crowd responded in a big way. They all stood!! And just like in 1977 with Lou Graham belting away the chorus, Kelly Hansen did the same for a sold-out crowd all standing in ovation of the great song.
The setlist being set up the way it is, really is ideal. It has 13-14 of the “best of” from the band and before you know it, you’re past the mid-way point and have the smashing ending insight. But you really don’t realize it because the setlist has nothing but hits on it. In fact, the band has to leave other big hits off the list since they have so many. If you think of it, they have over 40 plus years of hits to squeeze into a two-and-a-half-hour show. I guess that’s a good thing. For them anyway.
Immediately following Feels Like The First Time, they went into and extended version of Urgent which put anyone that may have still been sitting on their feet. It felt like it was time for the National Anthem at a football game. Once everyone realized that Urgent was next up and that they were going to get the treat of hearing and seeing the legendary Tom Gimbel on the sax. And a treat it was. He is truly the “dot” on the exclamation mark on the concert itself. Hansen along with Tom really shined tonight and every night for that matter on Urgent. It truly is the bands anthem so to say. On a side note, It’s hard to describe just how important the likes of both Jeff Pilson and Bruce Watson are to this band. The hold the keys to the band and say when to turn it on or turn it off or down. Both are INCREDIBEL musicians with the same in resumes. I can’t describe how honored I am to have been able to catch a few shows with this two driving the Foreigner bus.
With that, the band took a break and Chris Frazier and Michael Bluestein stole the lime light with an INCEDIBLE duel keyboard/drum solo. Each took it to the highest limits. And then some. Both truly complimented each other and made it a great performance. Giving the rest of the band a break, this set up for a dark stage and a single drum beat and some keyboards and great entrance into Juke Box Hero. The song, the guitars, the vocals, the drums and keyboards went on forever. Just one trying to out do the other and so on and so on. And they did!! That’s what a great group of musicians can do. Actually, the song went on for close to 14 minutes. An incredible, “Stairway To Heaven” type of 14 minutes in the year 2018. Can a band have two anthems? I think Foreigner does. And ironically, both come from the same album. The album “4” produced two of the greatest songs of all time. Urgent and Juke Box Hero are those songs and both kept this crowd of close to four thousand on their feet screaming for more. Juke Box Hero is a great song to end the set list on. It truly is.
The end of Juke Box Hero sets the stage and gives the band time to get a local choir on the stage in each city to help the band really smash the ballad I Want To Know What Love Is. The choir is a nice touch. It really is. It gives the song a different feel and some local kids a chance to shine on the stage with an 80’s rock band that I’m sure all 20 of the choir members have to Google to see who Foreigner is. The climax that many of the 4000 waited for, and yes, all 4000 were still there for the final song at 1030pm, was the bands first smash hit back in 1978; Hot Blooded. And just like Hansen kicked off the night running around and into the crowd giving high fives and giving young kids guitar picks, he ended the night. From start to finish, Hansen was the one to watch. And listen to. Hansen makes this band. Not too many other front men can cover the likes of Lou Graham 150-200 night a years across the country and globe. This band needs Kelly Hansen. Kelly Hansen needs this band to shine. I hope they keep it together and keep giving this great fan base what they want. Tons of smash hits from the 1970’s though the 2000’s. Or more easily explained. Hot Blooded though Juke Box Hero. And everything in between.