Friday, February 24, 2006

Foreigner was right about tight being right

Foreigner came out in 1977, just as the last wave of the British invasion was beginning to crest for many bands such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and The Who: They just didn’t know it yet.
Though less adventuresome than their so-called “classic rock” (We call them that now) contemporaries, the band, led by British journeyman rocker Mick Jones, came out slugging like champs. Before they were finished with their chart-topping days, a full 10 years of steady success, they had successfully made themselves permanent landmarks on the rock-radio landscape.
Of course, some might argue the band, with tighter arrangements and more straightforward songwriting, was there to deliver the deathblow to good ol’ AOR (album oriented rock) radio by simply being so good at churning out hits. Bands such as Journey and REO Speedwagon couldn’t help but follow the same lucrative formula that less was more (nobody had the patience to listen to 12 minutes of “Freebird” anymore, anyhow).
But some of those same detractors will likely be in the audience this weekend for two sold-out shows at the Chinook Winds Casino Resort, waiting to root and rock to such punchy hits as “Cold as Ice” and “Hot Blooded.” After shorter, tighter songs became more the norm in the post-punk and new wave era of the 1980s, Foreigner showed they had more listeners in mind than most of the extended jam bands and artsy prog’ rockers they displaced.
When Lou Gramm, the group’s original singer, left the band for the first time in 1988, it appeared the gig was up. But then the band reformed in 1992, again with Gramm as singer. But he left again, then came back as he recovered from health problems related to a benign brain tumor. Now, Jones is the remaining “Foreigner.”
With the re-emergence of so many bands with listeners linked up through fan sites on the Internet, the band has proven that despite multiple lineup changes, they can draw big audiences indefinitely. And like the original African-American bluesmasters their rock is built upon, there’s always one reliable, incontrovertible fact for many of these live acts: The older they are, the better they get.

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