Foreigner with Special Guest Deborah Bonham
Tuesday 7th June 2016
Palladium Theatre, London, United Kingdom
On a warm June evening the JLTT team set off for the famous Palladium Theatre in the heart of Central London for an ‘Evening With Foreigner’ and their special guest Deborah Bonham. As we arrived at the steps of the venue entrance we were surrounded by people in classic rock attire with tour shirts from previous Foreigner outings and other rock bands.
Before the show we had a look at the merchandise stall which included baseball caps and two different T-shirts; one with a guitar on the front and the tour dates on the back and the other with a colourful jukebox on the front and the set list on the back. In addition, the band gave away an Epiphone guitar signed by all the band with all of the money going to their charity.
We went to our seats whilst the collection of photographers (including Kieran White at KW Media, Laurence Harvey at Harv’s Photos and John Bull from Rockrpix) took their positions and set up their gear. We managed to catch some of Deborah Bonham’s acoustic set which included a guitarist and keyboardist. Deborah’s voice had a smoky texture to it on the track ‘Grace’ and her fellow musicians played just the right amount without playing over her lead vocals.
She explained that she toured with Foreigner ten years and that the money from her CDs at the merchandise desk was going to be donated to Foreigner’s charity for diabetic children. This was met with huge applause and then she finished her set with the Sixties track ‘Stay With Me’ which was originally by Lorraine Ellison but was famously covered by Sharon Tandy amongst others.
Deborah Bonham is the sister of the John Bonham, the late drummer for Led Zeppelin and she told the audience that the song was his favourite. In summary, she was a wise opening act because the band really flowed and the set list was well thought out. She was well received by the audience and smiled as she left the stage. For more information on Deborah Bonham visit her official website here: http://bit.ly/1thygtr
The house lights went down and the energy of the crowd was building up as the stunning stage lights came on to welcome the seven-piece band to a crowd of all ages. Opening with ‘Double Vision’ lead singer Kelly Hansen wore a black and white stripe suit and classy sunglasses as he waved and twirled the microphone stand to everyone’s delight.
Mick Jones played electric guitar as the Chris ‘The Razor’ Frazier on drums laid down the fast and solid beat. You’d be forgiven for thinking that an event like this wouldn’t work in such a regal venue as the Palladium but that was most definitely not the case and for their 40th Anniversary they really pulled out all the stops; including the venue choice.
They then went straight into ‘Head Games’ with its hooky chorus and Mick Jones’s guitar solo was purposeful and a technical masterpiece whilst Jeff Pilson bass line was incredibly funky. The overall sound of three Les Paul Epiphone guitars is crisp.
Hansen then took a moment to thank the venue and explain that the band were aware of its heritage and place in British entertainment history before a keyboard was wheeled on for Jones. ‘Are you gonna stay in your seats all night? Hansen enquired before the iconic keyboard intro from the hit ‘Cold As Ice’ compelled the audience to leap from their seats. Frazier thre his drumstick in the air and caught it whilst Hansen jumped into the crowd and began singing and walking through.
‘Waiting On A Girl’ saw the stage covered in pink lighting and it was clear that Hansen is a remarkable vocalist who is funny whilst being part of the band/unit. Unlike some lead singers he does not come across as ‘Look at me!’ ‘That Was Yesterday’ showed that Foreigner are able to to write heartfelt songs as well as the high-octane stadium rock tracks.
Mick Jones said a few words and explained that he was ‘still an Englishman’ and he had met the Queen at The Palladium before going straight into the impactful ‘Dirty White Boy’. Both Michael Bluestein on keyboards and Frazier really excelled on this number.
One thing that was really refreshing was when they put down the electric instruments and opted for an acoustic version of ‘Make Up Your Mind’ which was a new percussive arrangement by Pilson who had added some glorious flute courtesy of Tom Gimbel. ‘No tricks, no auto pitch-correction! Hansen bellowed.
‘Feels Like The First Time’ appeared to be a live fan favourite and every member of the band can sing and provided beautiful harmonies. Jones’s guitar cried out like a majestic phoenix whilst the interplay between the keyboards and drums was tight.
A set highlight was the anthemic ‘Urgent’ which featured a funky sax solo by Gimbel. He reminded me of the late Clarence Clemmons of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and Hansen was on hand with what looked like a glockenspiel to help create a real late-night jazz club sound. Pure class.
Bluestein’s keyboard solo was bathed in green light and it felt like being on a spaceship and the rocking ‘Jukebox Hero’ saw Hansen hold that note with such precision. At this point I must give a mention to all of the backstage crew, the roadies, the lighting team and the sound engineer for Foreigner as they support the band to create both a musical but visual spectacle.
The encore conjured up a funky improvised groove as Jones’s keyboard was wheeled on for a final time. It has to be said that this evening had no conflicting egos whatsoever. ‘Hansen has been with Foreigner for ten years’ Jones stated before Hansen corrected him with ‘twelve years’. The band were all smiling and musically gelling with each other throughout the performance as the audience sang-along but it was when the opening notes of ‘I Wanna Know What Love Is’ hit the crowd that everyone began swaying back and forth.
Halfway through the song, a group of young children formed onstage to sing the chorus as their proud parents and families watched on. Their vocals were beautiful as Deborah Bonham joined the band onstage with Jones’s arm around her. Hansen told the crowd that the children were the Notting Hill Prep Singers as the band dished out high-fives to the children. It was an incredibly emotional moment for both the audience and the performers.
Leaving us with ‘Hot Blooded’, Pilson and Bluestein swapped instruments in a blink and you’ll miss it type of moment as the chorus echoed around the venue. In conclusion, Foreigner is one of the greatest classic AOR (Album Orientated Rock) bands of our time and it is fantastic to see every generation of a family sat in The Palladium to see Foreigner celebrate forty years in the music business. A great evening was had by all and on that form, we will be seeing Foreigner live and talking about their live shows for years to come.
You can read our ’10 Reasons To Love Foreigner’ here: http://bit.ly/25r9FUB
(All photos in gallery credited to Kieran White/KW Media. Many thanks to Pete Sargeant, Kieran White, Dom, and Peter Noble for all of their help with this review)