It is, as Foreigner‘s superb frontman Kelly Hansen was not slow to remind the nearly-full Concert Hall of Sydney Opera House, forty one years since the band launched their multi-platinum and very melodic take on the Bad Company hard rock blueprint on the World. Since then it’s been almost all plain sailing, the band surviving the grunge-prompted dog days of AOR to emerge if not totally triumphant, then certainly in good enough shape to harvest all the rewards that heavy rock’s booming nostalgia business has to offer.
Consequently a band that looked for all money dead and buried in 1995 is here, in Australia’s most August venue, in 2018, being treated like homecoming heroes. They respond to this almost startling outpouring of love (bordering at times on hysteria in the cases of some ladies of a certain age dotted throughout the not-so-cheap seats) by delivering a set that’s obviously rammed with hits – all of them, in fact – but also by giving a touchingly impressive, interactive performance that belies the grand nature of tonight’s show by making sure that, despite the orchestral backing, you’re never really in doubt that Foreigner is still very much a vital live proposition.
Backed by a worryingly young ANU Orchestra, which opens proceedings with a cunningly wrought overture that manages to fuse Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony with flashes from a fair few of the tracks we’re about to hear, the band launch into a brooding Blue Morning, Blue Day, cleverly holding a little in reserve for some of the bigger (and better) songs to come.
And come they do, as over the course of the next hour and forty five minutes the band plunder the prime nuggets from their back catalogue like a bunch of Pirates on piecework. Cold as Ice is an early highlight, but the first track to really benefit from the orchestral setting is Waiting For a Girl Like You, the washes of keyboard from Mick Jones and Michael Bluestein augmented wonderfully by the ANU string section.
That Was Yesterday is the first track to really exercise your reviewer’s pipes, and a stripped down version of Say You Will is effective too, but, as the crowd gets really warmed up and comfortable with the resetting of such familiar classics it isn’t really until a fabulous one-two of Double Vision and Feels Like the First Time that the Opera House’s famous sails are truly lifted off their hinges. Dirty White Boy is pleasingly gritty, but hysteria levels go truly into the red for a devastating reading of Urgent, raised to the rafters by a quite superb sax solo from Tom Gimbel, and another fabulous vocal from the supremely impressive Hansen, who proves himself this evening to be a truly great rock vocalist. The man simply doesn’t miss a note and, with the orchestra dismissed for the encore, his vocal on the rousing closer Jukebox Hero is a joy to behold, as is the brilliant solo from avuncular guitarist Jones.
Hansen also engages with the crowd throughout in endearing fashion – indeed he, bassist Jeff Pilson and lead guitarist Bruce Watson make a point of making the whole crowd a part of the show, even us poor media wretches stuck in the choir stalls – the result being one of the most thoroughly enjoyable shows you’ll ever get to see. The Orchestra project is winding down for Foreigner now, but if they come to your town in any form in the near future you’d be a fool to miss out. Outstanding on all counts.