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Foreigner in town

’80s band swings between nostalgia and contemporary music.

music Updated: Feb 13, 2011 14:20 IST
Megha Mahindru

American rock band, Foreigner, is not bogged downed by the prospects of performing at a college auditorium for a sit-down crowd. “I started out playing at a school auditorium,” says ageing rocker Mick Jones, adding that, “hopefully the audience will not be sitting down for long.”

Jones, who is the only member of the sextet to have been with the band since its inception in 1976, is hoping to rekindle their success of the ’80s. However, through the 35 years and numerous line-up changes, the band has been unable to recreate the magic of Waiting for a girl like you, I want to know what love is, Feels like the first time and Jukebox hero, that still find resonance in playlists at pubs across the city.

The recent five-city tour with sitar player Niladri Kumar will feature an eclectic mix of songs from yesteryear as well as from their latest album, Can’t Slow Down, from a band that’s busy vacillating between being a nostalgia band and a 21st century rock outfit. “When I wrote Feels Like The First Time for our debut album, it shaped the direction that the band would pursue. Over time, I have always tried to steer the band into interesting new areas. And today, going through the ’70s album to our 2009 one, I think you will find ours has been a very interesting journey. I am not out to recreate the same magic in the future. I’m bringing back that magical music in its most impressive form ever,” feels Jones.

Presently, the band comprises frontman and vocalist Kelly Hansen, bassist Jeff Pilson, rhythm guitarist Tom Gimbel, keyboardist Michael Bluestein and drummer Jason Sutter, best known for his stints with Smashmouth and Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave fame.

Almost oblivious to the band’s fading popularity, Hansen, who was introduced to the band’s music when he was barely 15, and later replaced legendary vocalist Lou Gramm in 2005, seems stunned when faced with criticism that labels these rockers as a ‘spent force’. “I’ve never heard this. Music and bands work in cycles. Bands have ups and downs. But today, Foreigner is doing much better than it did 10 years ago. We may not be selling as many records as in the ’80s but that's just a reflection of the times, where it’s much harder for bands to get noticed,” he explains.

In fact, the soft rock balladeers have been busy touring lately, having even performed at London’s O2 last year with Led Zeppelin. “In the last two years, we have been re-establishing Foreigner. We are ready to rock India and expand the band’s reach,” adds Hansen.