CLASSIC: Foreigner at Fred Kavil Theater
Written by Harriet Kaplan
Photographs by Rose Guerrerrd
Kelly Hansen, lead singer of Foreigner, said it best midway through the iconic rock band’s sold-out performance, explaining to the initially enthusiastic but politely seated audience, feeling the need to get fans to loosen up, stating that “it’s still a rock show through and through, though it’s acoustic, and you can still go fucking crazy.” Over the course of the 90-minute unplugged set at the Fred Kavil Theater in Thousand Oaks, CA, this fantastic show showcased new and creatively reworked versions of the legendary’s biggest hits spanning the breadth and depth of its wildly successful and vastly memorable 40-year career. The passion, urgency and sheer excitement managed to blast through and radiate dynamically through each song live in what seemed on the surface like a more subdued setting given the different musical format and arrangements.
The current Foreigner lineup included the exceptional and gifted talents of founder, singer/songwriter and lead guitarist Mick Jones, Bruce Watson on lead guitar, Jeff Pilsen on bass, Tim Gimbel who played several instruments including flute, rhythm guitar and saxophone, and Michael Bluestein also performed on keys. Each band member brought something special and unique to this riveting performance with their stellar contributions to the overall towering sound.
Kelly Hansen, who is an amazing fluid vocalist with an outstanding range that is melodic, hard driving and possesses am attention-getting explosive style, captivated the excited fans. The lanky and animated Hansen is a great showman with a lot of swagger who anchored the entire performance with his rough and tumble hard rock attitude. He often made playfully chastised concertgoers who arrived late reading them the riot act, which got a lot laughs – some nervous, some not. On a more serious note, Hansen asked for cellphones to put away and implored the audience to just enjoy the show by “living in the moment.”
In between songs, Hansen paid tribute to Mick Jones who he called “the architect of Foreigner” and detailed his various accomplishments in the music industry including being a producer and Songwriting Hall Of Fame inductee as well. Hansen also respectfully deferred to Jones asking him to share stories about how several of the classic numbers came into being. Quietly and thoughtfully, Jones transported the audience in time to the early days of the band’s history recalling and citing both sheer divine intervention as a creative source, relationships in general, and the geographical settings of where the group was located at any particular point in time that inspired the material.
As Hansen literally sang his heart during the entire show, Jones wanted the audience to know that Hansen has been the band for 12 years as part of the current lineup and gives 100 percent of himself to every performance. To which Hansen jokingly responded back, “let’s cut the BS.” Hansen launched right back into yet another signature Foreigner song with more to follow. As the show came to a close, Hansen left the seats where the entire band performed and stood and joined the Agoura Hills Harmony Choir for the show’s finale to sing the moving and rousing version of “I Want To Know What Love Is.”
Foreigner has a decades-long reputation for being a mammoth titan with an electrifying hard rock band. Foreigner Unplugged takes another direction going acoustic but without sacrificing the edginess and potency that is its sonic hallmark. It’s an adventurous choice experimenting with the music to keep it fresh and interesting not only for fans but for the band itself.