South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Foreigner embarks on farewell tour

Photo by Krishta Abruzzini

Foreigner have announced that the band is now embarking on their final tour – an outing that could extend well into 2024, when the buses and semi-trucks will get parked and the band members will move on to new chapters in their lives.

This development doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It’s been widely reported that health issues have prevented guitarist and founding member Mick Jones from playing multiple shows or sometimes only performing a few songs with the rest of the band when he has been able to participate in recent tours.

But what also becomes clear in interviewing singer Kelly Hansen is that he had a good deal to do with deciding it is time for Foreigner to step away from being a touring band and regular presence on the worldwide concert scene.

The fact is, Hansen said in a recent phone interview, he recognizes that as a high tenor vocalist, the day is coming when he won’t be able to deliver Foreigner’s songs the way he wants. Certain songs have notes that already are difficult for him to hit and he wants the band to call it a day with touring while they can still play and perform at their current high level.

“It’s not lost on any of us how fortunate we are and how grateful we are that we’re able to do this with such a great catalog of songs and such great people and such great fans who have been with us the whole time,” Hansen said. “But it gets harder and harder every year to perform this catalog in the way that it deserves, not only for the songs, but for the fans. It seems like every year I have to give up a little bit more of something in my life in order to keep the status quo of my performance level.

“I want to have us go out strong and have the live presence be remembered as still super strong and energetic,” he added. “That’s how I want the legacy of this band to be remembered.”

As for Jones, he’ll be along for the final tour as often as possible. That final tour includes a show in St. Louis at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater Wednesday, July 19 at 7 p.m.

“He wants to be out,” Hansen said. “He’s scheduled to be with us. It all depends on what is allowable for him healthwise. We still haven’t determined for 2024 how much of the rest of the world we’re going to be able to do. That’s kind of where we are. I think the show itself is better with him there, but I think the show is really, really good even when he’s not there because it’s really about the songs. It’s about this catalog. It’s about the legacy of what this band has put out over these past 45 years.”

That 45-year history has seen Foreigner become firmly established as one of rock’s most enduring and successful bands, overcoming ups and downs and a major departure along the way.

Jones, who previously had been in the band Spooky Tooth, formed Foreigner in 1976. Over the course of six albums, from the 1977 self-titled album through 1987’s “Inside Information,” Foreigner notched 15 top 20 singles, the high point coming with the multi-chart-topping epic ballad, “I Want To Know What Love Is” in 1984. Earlier rocking hits like “Feels Like The First Time,” “Hot Blooded,” “Double Vision” and “Urgent” established Foreigner’s credentials as a band with talent for writing catchy mainstream rock.

But then Jones and singer Lou Gramm had a falling out and Gramm left the band in 1990. And while Gramm rejoined Foreigner for the 1994 album, “Mr. Moonlight,” any return to former glories was sidetracked when Gramm needed surgery to remove a brain tumor in 1997. He recovered and was able to resume touring in 1998, but tensions gradually returned and the Jones/Gramm partnership ended in 2003, prompting Jones to step away, and over the next couple of years, ponder his future and whether it included a new chapter for Foreigner.

And when Jones decided to bring back Foreigner a couple of years later, it was essentially going to be a new band. Hansen, who had fronted the band Hurricane from the mid-1980s into the early 1990s, got wind in 2004 that Jones might be forming a new edition of Foreigner and pursued the singer’s slot. He got an audition, which he obviously passed.

But Foreigner was not going to return at anywhere near the same level of popularity the band had achieved in the 1980s, and Hansen said he knew a lot of work was in store. The band had to get an entire organization, from management on down, in place, and more to the point, rebuild relationships, not only with fans, but with promoters, booking agents and other industry professionals.

“Of course, the band had the catalog and a great history, but there had been some damage done over the previous years,” Hansen said. “So it took time for us to develop trust with people. But as soon as we started doing shows, I think people recognized that this was something again formidable and were willing to take a chance on us again and do that and gave the band that new breath of life.”

As the years ensued, Foreigner continued to tour upwards of nine months a year playing bigger and bigger venues while earning credibility for the way the band delivered the song catalog. Another key step, Hansen said, was making an album of new songs, “Can’t Slow Down,” which was released in 2009.

“That’s one of the reasons why I thought we really needed to do ‘Can’t Slow Down’ in 2009 because I said we have done everything with this band except record new music, and I think for us to really be considered legitimate that was what had to happen,” he said. “I was very privileged to be able to do that, to be involved in the songwriting of that album.”

The lineup that made “Can’t Slow Down” is largely intact today, with guitarist Bruce Watson, drummer Chris Frazier (who joined in 2011 and 2012 respectively) and guitarist/bassist Luis Maldonado (a 2021 recruit), stepping in alongside Jones, Hansen, bassist/keyboardist Jeff Pilson and keyboardist Michael Bluestein. This stability has helped the band’s credibility as well.

“I think over the course of these 20 years, what we’ve done, my goal has been to maintain the legacy of this band and the integrity of the catalog and give it the sincerity and the dignity that it deserves,” Hansen said. “I think that we have done that.”

Once the final tour wraps up, Hansen isn’t sure what his future will hold. He expects that Foreigner will still play the occasional special event and he’ll be offered musical opportunities with other bands or for various projects. But there’s more to his life than music, and he’ll have plenty of ways to stay busy and happy.

“I know a lot of musicians who, the only pursuit or passion they’ve ever had is music. And I have other things in my life that I enjoy doing passionately,” Hansen said. “Just living life with my wife, cooking, and I’m an avid motorcyclist. I like to fix and repair old engines and machines and things like that. And I really do enjoy working on the house and building and fixing and changing things. I have a lot of other things that fill my time and satisfy me.”

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