Classic rock supergroup Foreigner set up shop at Casino Rama Entertainment Complex this weekend for two shows; two AMAZING shows. And their loyal and adoring fans got exactly what they wanted to see and hear. The band’s music certainly seems timeless. This is a bit of a perspective story for me this time, as I’ve been listening to this band since my high school days (that was a few years ago LOL). They created a large part of the soundtrack of my youth in the 80’s and with the classic rock genre very much enjoying a renaissance for the past several years, I have to say I am loving it. We were constantly spinning the albums or wearing out our Foreigner cassettes as we tried to learn their music as part of a garage band back in those days. The band’s sound is just so good, the songs can truly stand the test of time. My observations based on the various ages I saw at the show, is that they are gathering new Foreigner fans as they go.
The lineup has changed a bit over time, but with a constant team now for a number of years they most definitely deliver the goods. The sound is as true as ever, and the stage show had the Casino Rama crowd rocking it out hard when I covered Friday night’s opening show. Kicking things off with Double Vision, the boys raised the temperature in the room with a high energy set that just kept delivering all night. We’re talking all the favourites you’d want to hear, and more. I was really enjoying myself as I captured my photos, at times catching myself singing as I worked. Since I was the only photographer at this particular show (a rare treat) I didn’t mind at all.
Frontman Kelly Hansen is the consummate showman. I truly love how he engages his audience, with lots of direct communication, pointing people out as he connects, and at one point early on while the band kept the song going, he left the stage and ran up the stands in the theatre, cutting across one row, and then back down to the floors and finally back onto the stage, where he grabbed his microphone and got right back into his vocals. This is what Foreigner does to make sure you have a great time and certainly get your money’s worth. You feel a part of the show!
As usual, the stage at Rama allows for great sightless, and the artists can really move around to give everyone at all angles something to see. Hansen, as well as bass player Jeff Pilson certainly make good use of the size of the stage. Pilson is quite an animated player, with lots of hand and facial gestures, even playing his bass upside down. These guys just seem to have so much fun performing, and it’s infectious.
Keys player Mike Bluestein was celebrating his birthday on this night, and was serenaded with “Happy Birthday” from the crowd, then Kelly Hansen had him come to the front of the stage to blow out the candles on his chocolate birthday cake. Bluestein created some great sounds and performed a really sweet solo before handing it over to drummer Chris Frazier to pound out a solo of his own. Chris poured out a bottle of water onto his drums and then took to beating them up pretty good, with the water splashing and spraying everywhere, and glistening in the lights. He’s a great time keeper for the band and again, another guy with some awesome facial expressions! Pure fun.
During my photo time, I found myself in front of guitar man Bruce Watson a fair bit. As a guitar player myself, I found photographing him to be a blast. He has a great sound and I tried to keep track of his guitar changes from a black Les Paul, to a nice Telecaster and even an ES335 thrown in for good measure. Again, he’s another artist who really engages with the crowd with lots of eye contact and pointing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, people love that. It certainly makes for good pictures, but more than that, when an artist acknowledges someone, it makes them feel included in the show.
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When the band got to I Want To Know What Love Is, they were joined on stage by members of the local Orillia Voice Ensemble to help round out the backing vocals. What a treat for these folks. And they were rightly applauded for their talent by the Rama audience. Nice touch by the band to bring them out! They wrapped things up with a power packed encore, which is good, because nobody wanted this to end.
This weekend certainly did not feel like the first time. Foreigner has made several visits to this stage over that last number of years, and I’m sure we’ll see them back here again. As usual, my method of covering a show sees me move around the venue a bit to check the sound from different areas, but also to get a feel for how the crowd is reacting to the performance. And every spot I moved to was the same. People standing, singing and rocking their way through the show. Can’t wait to see the Dirty White Boys on their next visit!
Scott Burns / @ScottBurnsImages