FOREIGNER / WHITESNAKE - Double Vision: In The Heart Of The City!

June 27, 2018, 3 months ago

Mark Gromen

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A week into the co-headlining tour, although only five gigs under their belt, David Coverdale and his current incarnation of Whitesnake were afforded just nine songs. Still, they didn't dispense with time consuming solo spotlights (guitars & ageless wonder, drummer Tommy Aldridge, did get brief showcases). A hits filled setlist, the Snake concentrated solely on material from Slide It In and the eponymous '87 follow-up (unless you're an aficionado and consider versions of "Crying In The Rain" and "Here I Go Again" originally appeared on Saints & Sinner, pre-US/MTV stardom). Sort of recalls the first time I saw the band, 1984 at the Richfield Coliseum, in Ohio.

Coverdale strolled onstage dressed head-to-toe, in black, the back of his Whitesnake button down emblazoned with the message, "Make some fucking noise!" The "Bad Boys" opener sees everyone but Aldridge provide vocal accompaniment, including both guitarists: leather clad newboy Joel Hoekstra and Reb Beach, looking like Kid Rock, with a guitar. David is still a cheeky cad, using the mic stand as a phallic prop and ad libs the lyrics "bad girl" as he points out a femme fatale at the rail. Stage right, Hoekstra is given plenty of room to play guitar god, attracting many photographers' lenses, as he repeatedly drops to his knees, even visually upstaging Beach's solo in "Give Me All Your Love". Working up a sweat, Coverdale raises a goblet and toasts the audience, before downing some of the brown liquid, prior to the heavily keyboard introduced "Love Ain't No Stranger". 

The groove of a purple lit "Slow An' Easy" is a throwback to the "British" version of the band. The guitar duel sees a tapping/hammer-on expo, Hoekstra and Beach on opposite sides of the stage. Ultimately, they get together, center stage, for twin leads. Coverdale returns to the stage under cannonading Aldridge drums, for "Crying In The Rain". David works both wings of the large stage. Beach's solo is followed by a drum spotlight, including a bit of hand drumming: Aldridge the only one onstage. When he returns, during the post-drumming reprise, Coverdale is now in a white shirt. He introduces the band, including, "Not supposed to say this, but Lock up your family pets. The crown prince of porno. From Pittsburgh, our band leader, Reb Beach." A lighter/cell phone aloft moment, "Is This Love" sees streaks of white light from on high breaking the purple hue, as both guitarists reconvene on Joel's side of the stage.

Following a poppy, sing-along, clap-along "Slide It In", the stage goes completely black. They return for "Here I Go Again", which ends with all four (minus Aldridge) together, center stage. Hoekstra has the flowing blond hair Coverdale covets, like Adrian Vandenberg and John Sykes before him. A driving finale, "Still Of The Night" sees Hoekstra on his knees, center stage, his mane falling behind him. A fun retrospective night!

Resurrecting virtually the same killer setlist as performed (and recorded for DVD) in Balingen, Germany, a dozen years ago, on that day, Foreigner were part of the multi-day Bang Your Head metal festival, so they needed to bring the heavy artillery. Now headlining their own tour, it's a welcome return to their youth. This could be played at any venue around the globe, as only one track isn't culled from the initial four albums: a lean, no-filler running order, with just a couple of the cheesy US ballads/hits included. More rocker than Top 40, to the chagrin of some in the crowd. 

At 73, Mick Jones looks more like a college prof than a rock star, but he's in much better shape than a sizable (pun intended) portion of the ‘70s and ‘80s concert going audience in attendance. Sure, I've packed on the pounds since college, but I neither possess the size, nor physique of a Smart car. Speaking of which, surprised no one has developed a line of geriatric rock merch: canes, walkers, wheelchairs or oxygen tanks with band logo (Gene's already got toilet seats and coffins!). Jones appears in the channel that separates the drummer and keyboard player, for the opening "Long, Long Way From Home". Jones doesn't move much, that's left to onetime Hurricane vocalist Kelly Hansen, who literally bounces around the stage. Having seen him in the late ‘80s, with Hurricane (outfit that initially featured two brothers of Quiet Riot members and eventually, former Whitesnake guitarist Doug Aldrich. Small world!) would never have imagined he'd turn into a world class frontman. A toothy grin, he looks like a younger Steven Tyler.

"Double Vision" starts a string of old school sing-alongs, followed by "Head Games". A second keyboard is wheeled to the edge of the stage, where Mick taps out the opening notes to "Cold As Ice". Hansen leaves the stage and runs up the aisle, to the soundboard, then back down the other aisle of the filled seated portion of the amphitheater bowl. As it ends, the blackened stage is illuminated by a rainbow of color: yellow/blue/purple/gold, with disco ball polka dots racing across the deck of the fog shrouded stage. Cue the syncopated dance beat of "Waiting for a Girl Like You" ballad, aka refuel/bathroom break, for rock fans. Hansen finally ditched the sunglasses and upon its completion, he asks a guy in the front row, "Did she say yes?" apparently the singer was in on a marriage proposal, as the hugging couple was shown on the arena Jumbotrons.

A series of white lights pendulum from the back of the stage, into the crowd, for "Dirty White Boy". Hansen get the crowd to sing the titular chorus. For the next track, he acknowledges that Foreigner are celebrating 40 years as a band. "Some of you might be over 40," he deadpans. He takes the audience on a trip back in time, "past the first divorce...that experimental period in college. Dig down to that 20 year old rocker, who did something illegal or immoral." The fans are loving every minute of it, until he says, "Something a 20 year old rocker never did was stand in the front row with a phone on," which elicited a substantial chorus of boos. Elaborate, but fitting intro to "Feels Like The First Time", with white searchlights sweeping the stage. 

The metalhead in me started to wince as "Urgent" began the decidedly more commercial final portion of the night. It kicked off with Jones alone, spotlit and drum accompanied. Yellow lights sweep as fog erupts skyward, across the stage, and the saxophone returns. Hansen wanders around, beating a cowbell with a drumstick. Although he adds backing vocals (and tambourine), come the chorus, Hansen turns over the mic to Jones, complete with acoustic guitar, for "Starrider", which also features a brief interlude of live flute. Jones switches to an electric and takes the lead, as laser focused lights slice around the Brit. It ends in a shower of sparks, falling from the rafters.   

A keyboard and drum interlude gives Hansen time to disappear into the crowd again, this time, arising (quite literally) on a heretofore secret, hydraulic riser at the middle of the venue for "Juke Box Hero". Almost a Spinal Tap moment, as the operator missed a cue and the singer had to repeatedly, vehemently motion to let him down! Safely back on terra firma, he runs back to the stage and a (too) lengthy jam rendition ensues. The encore starts with an otherwise forgettable "I Want to Know What Love Is". Even ten extra voices, a local kids' choir trotted out for just this song, can't save the canned, easy listening moment, even if the appeal (not to cancel funding for music, in schools) was in the right place. Under a backdrop replica of the fourth album artwork, constructed of steel and lights, "Hot Blooded" is punctuated by five fire cannons exploding fireballs across the stage almost every time the title is mentioned in the lyrics. A fiery end to a mostly memorable evening. 

Sometimes older is better!

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