Foreigner adds 'Vegas headliner' to its storied history
Without founding member and bandleader Mick Jones, there would have been no Foreigner. No "Cold as Ice." No "Head Games." No New Jersey Mass Choir backing founding lead singer Lou Gramm on Foreigner's No. 1 megahit "I Want to Know What Love Is." While health problems placed significant restrictions on Gramm's ability to participate in the band, vocalist Kelly Hansen stepped up to the mic in 2005 and became Foreigner's hot-blooded frontman, enabling fans to continue to hear touchstones such as "Urgent" and "Feels Like the First Time" delivered live by the legendary musician who composed them.
Now Foreigner can add 'Vegas Headliner' to a history that started around the time a teenage Hansen began to be recognized for his voice and joined his first band. The eras that Foreigner and Hansen's band Hurricane emerged from are marked by memories of hedonism, but the only indulgence Hansen has planned during the band's Venetian stay is the caloric kind, and only if the timing is right.
"I have several friends who are chefs at restaurants around town, although it's very hard for me to eat a fancy meal on a gig day," says Hansen. "Who wants to eat a heavy meal then run around onstage?"
In other words, if Hansen is sighted at a Strip dining spot, it's either not a gig day or he's eating light in order to give his all while in performance. Foreigner's live set contains some of the most demanding songs in the entire rock canon for a vocalist, with tight arrangements resulting from Jones' sophisticated producer's touch. The seven-man live band, including former Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson, has to be on point at all times.
Unlike a lot of veteran groups who experience changes, Foreigner's former members have an open invitation to join the band in concert. Gramm's continuing health issues after having surgery for a brain tumor in 1997 caused him to curtail participating in planned reunion shows, but Hansen has Gramm's endorsement.
"Lou is great," says Hansen. "He's always been gracious to me, and hopefully he and everyone else has always gotten the feeling from me that I have an immense amount of respect for what he's accomplished. In fact, it's been the same with all the original members. They're all such great guys. We share a thing that's really rare, to be associated with this catalog of songs."
Becoming Foreigner's frontman would be daunting for any singer, but Hansen cites Brian Johnson of AC/DC and Sammy Hagar's tenure with Van Halen as successful precedents. Jones, in fact, produced 5150, Van Halen's first album with Hagar, and helped the singer adapt his voice to Van Halen. Hansen's respect for Jones' production skills and musical intuition made the decision to join Foreigner a no-brainer. "I would say he listens to his gut and he has a very high standard," says Hansen. "No matter what happens, Mick Jones will always come around to doing what he thinks is the best thing."
The Venetian, 8 p.m. Jan. 24-25, 29 & 31-Feb. 1, starting at $49.95 plus tax and fee. 702.414.9000