First off, Foreigner’s current frontman Kelly Hansen is a quality vocalist. He sings every Foreigner song with a strong sense of how it was intended. And this is evident on the latest concert audio release of Alive & Rockin’ (previously, Alive & Rockin’ has only been available as a DVD — click to purchase here). That being said, it is nearly impossible to replace Foreigner’s iconic voice: Lou Gramm. Gramm had such a distinctive style and it was perfectly married to guitarist Mick Jones’ gift for hard rock songwriting. It was a once-in-a-lifetime pairing.

Perhaps, being at the show the night this concert was recorded, this reviewer would have disregarded the absence of Gramm. After all, most of the songs performed are hits, from “Double Vision” to “Hot Blooded” to “Urgent.” And on this night — June 23, 2006 at Bang Your Head Festival, Balingen, Germany — the guitar sound is completely razor sharp. In fact, the “Dirty White Boy” riff has a kind of “Looks That Kill” guitar sound to it. It’s as if guitarist Mick Jones wanted to make a statement: remember, this is a kick ass classic hard rock band! Musicians like ex-Dokken Jeff Pilson on bass and Jason Bonham on drums only fortifies this message. Bonham  seems like a tiger in a cage throughout, ready to be freed and kill on command (it was probably Bonham’s presence that brought on the decision for unnecessarily hitching Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” up to “Juke Box Hero,” too). Bottom line: the lineup featured on Alive & Rockin’ is quite capable.

It’s obvious Foreigner was still a pleasure to see live in 2006. But no matter how good the band still sounds, it’s just not like seeing them in their heyday. To a listener who has grown up with classic rock radio, the reality is that Foreigner sounds a bit alien without Lou Gramm.


Label: Eagle Records — CD format is available May 29, 2012 and can be ordered by clicking here.