Review: Foreigner, Eddie Money at Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall
Looks like 2010 is off to a good start for '80s concert fans. Last night's Foreigner and Eddie Money at Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall was sold out. All 2,163 seats were filled. And rightfully so. Foreigner is seriously at the top of the game during shows now. Here are some impressions from the show.
EDDIE MONEY: No pun, but he's like money in the bank in Tampa Bay. He plays here often, but fans can't seem to get enough of him. He rolled right through his hits in a 45-minute set, particularly connecting with I Want To Go Back and If I Could Walk on Water. The borscht-belt comedy bits between songs might feel dated, but that's Eddie's shtick and fans still love it.
SEEMS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: To be honest, I barely remember my first-ever Foreigner show. It was 1982 in Orlando's Tangerine Bowl and I was probably 75 yards from the stage. I remember not being impressed. Oh, times have changed. The band has been completely "refurbished," with only founder Mick Jones still in the lineup. You couldn't tell the difference. The boys came out and ripped through five straight hits before taking a break with a song off the new album. (See set list below).
HOW DID THEY LOOK? I mean this with all the love in my heart, but Mick Jones -- with his white puffy hair and eyes hidden by glasses -- is a dead-ringer for a koala bear. You just want to give him a hug, which I did before the show backstage. (BTW, the ENTIRE band are about the nicest bunch of guys you will ever meet in the rock business.) Lead singer Kelly Hansen looks and gyrates like a sober version of Aerosmith's Steven Tyler.
AND THE SOUND? Forget Lou Gramm. Seriously. I know there's a lot of sentiment toward the band's longtime singer, and normally I'd be leading the charge. But if you closed your eyes, Hansen's voice was Lou's voice. Only 30 years younger. Which is probably a good thing these days. I have never seen a band this tight and coherent in concert. And they played the songs EXACTLY as you wanted to hear them. No remixing. No acoustic versions of rock standards. A bare minimum amount of crowd-singalongs.
EXCEPT....: The only song that caught me off-guard was Urgent, their overplayed tune from 1981's legendary 4 album. To be honest, I didn't like it much back then. Nowadays, the signature crunchy beginning is gone and it throttles straight into the meat of the tune. However, I just can't get it out of my head that Urgent sounds more like a Hall & Oates tune than a Foreigner song. And I mean that in a good way.
THE NEW TUNES: Foreigner has a new album out -- Can't Slow Down -- and so you had to expect some pimping of the product during the show. The band played two cuts off it, the title tune (which sounds SO much better live) and the more contemporary When It Comes To Love. Good tunes. It's an album worthy owning if you like Foreigner.
THE BALLADS: I've never been a fan of Foreigner's two big ballads. Waiting For A Girl Like You came early in the set and gave everyone a chance to rest. (And it gave couples a chance to stand up and grind up against each other. Seriously, they should have been selling condoms along with t-shirts and CDs.) I Want To Know What Love Is was a predictable yet obligatory encore. This band just has so much firepower now, ballads seem like a waste of resources. (Though maybe my cynicism comes because instead of bringing a date, I was there with my buddy Andy. So, yeah, no gentle swaying for us.)
THE FINALE: Juke Box Hero is a fitting finale to the regular set and, like many Foreigner tunes, it really does take on added power when played live. (Nice touch: The band switched gears into Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love during the tune. It worked.)
WHAT I TAKE AWAY: I'd heard a lot of good and bad about Foreigner's live shows over the last few months, especially from the camp that is still pining away over Gramm's departure. I wish all those people had been there last night. Mick and the boys put on a show for the ages. And as their song says, "now they need to keep on rocking. Just can't stop."
FOREIGNER SET LIST - CLEARWATER (JAN. 15, 2010):
- Double Vision
- Head Games
- Cold As Ice
- Blue Morning, Blue Day
- Waiting For a Girl Like You
- When It Comes to Love
- Dirty White Boy
- Can't Slow Down
- Feels Like the First Time
- Keyboard solo/drum solo
- Juke Box Hero
- Long Long Way From Home (encore)
- I Want to Know What Love Is (encore)
- Hot Blooded (encore)