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Column: Feels like the second time he’s written about Foreigner

Foreigner at Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville this summer. Photo used with permission from Live Nation Indiana and Amplified Photography.

Let’s begin with the Foreigner fallout boys, those rock and roll purists who understandably disagreed with the positive things I wrote about my first Foreigner concert at Ruoff “I Still Call It Deer Creek” Music Center in Noblesville last month.

I recounted how I bought two tickets at a three-figure price for an official Foreigner show, fully knowing that no original band members would be onstage. The band’s official website listed original guitarist Mick Jones on the current roster, but I knew he hadn’t toured with them lately due to illness. It was billed as their final tour.

As reported, the musicians sounded just like Foreigner of yesteryear, and frontman Kelly Hansen, 18 years with the band, sounded exactly like original vocalist Lou Gramm, who formed the band in the 1970s and delivered the hits before eventually parting ways. 

Foreigner still sounded like Foreigner—because they are Foreigner! 

My wife, Brynne, who loved the concert, was among the almost 20,000 fans (that many fans do not attend tribute band shows) who held up their phones with the flashlight feature on, much like people once held cigarette lighters aloft (yes, I’m old), and sang the chorus to “I Want To Know What Love Is.” It was beautiful, those gently swaying cell phones all aglow. The lawn section resembled a landing field for falling stars (cue up “Starrider”), that or a freshly unearthed but well-polished Hamilton County diamond mine. 

Pleased with our Foreigner experience, I checked off yet another box on my ever-shrinking 1970s Super Group Concert List. There aren’t many groups left that I want to see. I hope to see Queen sometime. I hear Adam Lambert is a worthy successor to Freddie Mercury.

I received a fair amount of reader responses following my Foreigner concert column. This was not a surprise since we diehard fans of 1970s rock bands still take our music seriously. 

Chris sent an email succinctly expressing his differing viewpoint in the subject line: “not foreigner sorry”. He left the text field blank. The three-word subject line said it all.

Edward, clearly in Chris’ camp, emailed: You did not see Foreigner. You could have seen any number of ‘tribute bands’ free. You got taken. Period.

Brynne and Scott Saalman

I get it. For many years, I refused to pay big money to see bands lacking original singers. But then I softened my stance. I saw Boston (minus Brad Delp), Journey (minus Steve Perry), and Chicago (minus Peter Cetera . . . perhaps for the better). All three shows were amazing. 

I’ve seen The Doobie Brothers several times, minus Michael McDonald (by the way, he was not their original vocalist). Founders Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons still lead the Doobies vocally. I’ve seen them with Michael McDonald in the mix, too. The Doobies are great with or without Michael McD.

The concept of a Foreigner stage lacking any original members clearly upset the rock and roll loving Edwards and Chrises of our world. I bought the tickets not expecting much but was pleasantly surprised to find myself immediately enjoying a major rock act with zero original members. All it took was their first song, “Double Vision,” to convince that I was hearing and seeing the real deal. 

Dear Foreigner, original members or not, I was a fool for you anyway.

Most readers who emailed agreed. 

Brian: Hi Scott, read your article on replacement singers, albeit “Kelley Hansen”, and the rest you mentioned……..gotta say you have given me a whole new perspective on seeing old bands!!! I too am/was a snob of sorts for non original members, but I have to say I’m a new fan of your philosophy on treating old bands like sports teams!! The players may have changed, but the “ENJOYMENT” can still be there!!! 

Tommy: Well said buddy. I feel the same. Saw all the bands and a few more, before and  after. To my pleasant surprise, I haven’t been disappointed. Sure it was great to see original members,  but the music is what got us there. And the music and memories are what we crave.

Rob: Your article was spot on! I’ve seen all the new singers live. DeCarlo, Pineda, Hansen and Gowan. They’re all strong, talented vocalists, and embody the spirit and heritage of the bands they represent. Long Live Rock!!

Mark: Enjoyed your opinion – it made alot of sense to us nostalgic types who still dream of yesterday year when they made Real Rock – God Bless you brother, may we keep the Rock alive! 

Daniel commented on Facebook how Lynyrd Skynyrd has now joined Foreigner as a “no original members” band, adding, “I think we’ll see more and more of this. People just want to hear the songs done well and many, if not most, don’t care who’s playing and singing.”

More and more of our juke box heroes, like their fans, are aging out. The passing of Tom Petty still breaks my heart. I worry our great old band brands will begin merging, much like corporations. If Mick Jagger dies, will The Rolling Stones merge with Styx to form one band called Styx and Stones? Perhaps Dennis DeYoung will return. Just imagine the singer of “Come Sail Away” leading “Gimme Shelter.” Oh, the horror.

FYI, the fresh checkmark by Foreigner on my 1970s Super Group Checklist still stands. Sorry, Chris and Edward.

Contact scottsaalman@gmail.com if you’d like to have a humorous guest speaker at a work or social event.