Hot off the Press

Foreigner | Alive & Rockin’

by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Columnist —

Formed in 1976 by Mick Jones, Ian McDonald and Lou Gramm, now Foreigner is more or less a super-group on its own. With the addition of such musicians as vocalist Kelly Hansen (Hurricane, Unruly Child, Heaven & Earth), drummer Jason Bonham (the man’s name speaks for itself) or bassist Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Dio) the band still rises up to the challenge, deserving to be listed among the greatest AOR/melodic rock acts ever. Their newest release via Eagle Rock Entertainment is Alive & Rockin’ – nine-track record of the band’s performance on the 2006 Bang Your Head!!! festival in Balingen, Germany. In fact, the material included is not entirely new to the listeners – the concert was previously released in DVD format and its availability on CD is the only novelty out there.

Reviewing live albums is always a bit of nuisance –whereas the content is nothing else but a “greatest hits” package in reference to the band’s catalogue, simultaneously there is a fair chance of ruining the band’s legendary status by a poor live performance and disappointing the fans. This is not the case for Foreigner, though – their live compilation of the most recognizable songs from the Lou Gramm era, is nothing but the best of the best. It begins with powerful performance of “Double Vision” off the band’s 1978 album – Jeff Jacobs’ keyboard sound is especially notable, giving the track the expected (and appropriate) late ‘70s, early ‘80s feel. 79’s “Head Games” is sort of room to show Mick Jones’ instrumental talents off, as it is his melodic six-string sound which leads the song to the bombastic final – an explosion of virtuosity taken as far as possible with the “cheesy” arena rock sound. Tongue-in-cheek 1979’s hit “Dirty White Boy” is treated with equal dose of dynamism – and the flute-driven ballad “Stargazer” must have been the one the die-hard metalheads gathered in Balingen that night had lighted their trademark concert lighters (or their mobile phones – sign of the times, they say) to.

It is not easy to say that classics such as “Cold as Ice” or “Urgent” fall in between the cracks on the album – but it is the roaring crowd during the “Juke Box Hero/Whole Lotta Love” medley that speaks for itself about what had to be the highlight of the gig. Still, along with “Hot Blooded” or “Feels Like the First Time” it is hard to pick one song the performance of which could be described as mediocre. That is partially thanks to the instrumentalists and partially to the breathtaking vocal delivery of Kelly Hansen. While it is not too easy to replace such legend Lou Gramm certainly remains, Hansen rises up to the challenge – he easily fits into the Foreigner catalogue by having similar abilities and vocal range to his predecessor, but also adds a bit of his own feeling and vocal style to the well-known band’s hits, proving there is no note in them he is not capable of hitting (no matter if it is beginning or the end of the show). The audience’s ecstatic chants and roars, evident through the whole album, are just another proof of that.

Alive & Rockin’ is, obviously, not much of a surprise. Beyond the fact the material was previously released on DVD, it is also more or less a list of what every Foreigner fan could dream of listening to, if attending the band’s show; a crowd-pleasing set perfect for an open-air festival experience. Still, it proves the class of the current band’s line-up (Kelly Hansen, hands down) as well as the fact that the widely-played, big-selling hits of the last three decades stood the test of time even all those years later. Due to the general character of live albums Alive & Rockin’ is not a must-have even for a die-hard Foreigner fan, but certainly remains a nice addition to the band’s records’ collection.

Genre: Classic Rock

Mick Jones (guitars)
Kelly Hansen (vocals)
Jason Bonham (drums)
Jeff Jacobs (keyboards)
Tom Gimbel (guitars, saxophone, flute)
Jeff Pilson (bass)

Track Listing:
1. Double Vision
2. Head Games
3. Dirty White Boy
4. Cold As Ice
5. Starrider
6. Feels Like The First Time
7. Urgent
8. Juke Box Hero / Whole Lotta Love
9. Hot Blooded



Hardrock Haven rating: 9/10