Foreigner at the London Palladium: Live Review

Mick Jones and the gang pull up at London's most regal venue for an emotional trawl through one of rock's great catalogues

Mick Jones and Kelly Hansen
(Image: © Kevin Nixon)

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In the week the Axl/DC circus rolled through the UK, Foreigner dropped by the London Palladium to provide a further reminder that it’s not always about the performers on the stage – it’s the songs that matter.

The current ‘Foreigner’ comprises just one original member — guitarist and songwriter Mick Jones — and, frankly, he’s all we need. The 71-year-old has churned out the hits since 1977, but this evening’s 13-song set is culled from the years 1977-’87, and the band would appear to have abandoned the pretence of being a contemporary act altogether. Their most recent studio set, 2009’s Can’t Slow Down, is ignored, but Jones recently told Classic Rock of three newly recorded tracks, so perhaps we write them off prematurely. That’s by the by.

From Ghost to Brian Wilson, Dream Theater and Roger Hodgson, with grandeur undiminished and pin-perfect sound, The Palladium is once again becoming London’s must-play venue. When New York-based Brit Jones takes to the mic to say “Hello England” he mentions meeting the Queen during a previous visit whilst playing with Johnny Hallyday. “I was going to call up and have a cup of tea with her earlier but I was a bit rushed for time,” he grins while introducing Dirty White Boy. As Foreigner 2016 proceed to parade the crown jewels of melodic hard rock music, that royalty reference is justified.

Kelly Hansen and Jeff Pilson

Kelly Hansen and Jeff Pilson (Image credit: Photo by Kevin Nixon)

Later, when Jones points out that Kelly Hansen has fronted Foreigner for a decade, the former Hurricane/Unruly Child singer quietly corrects him: “Twelve.” The number of years is immaterial. Hansen is one among the very best frontmen in rock, and like the rest of Foreigner – a multi-tasking, tightly drilled seven-piece line-up in which everybody sings; a fact rammed home by a brilliant unplugged Say You Will – the American does his job perfectly. Three songs in, during Cold As Ice, he leaps into the crowd, standing on seats and high-fiving a small girl wearing ear protectors in the seat directly in front of your correspondent (it’s not till later that we recognise the infant’s beaming mum is none other than former Nightwish singer Tarja Turunen).

Chills run down the spine when, during a three-song encore, the band are joined by a choir of youngsters from the Notting Hill Prep Singers and the night’s support act Deborah Bonham for a lighter-waving I Want To Know What Love Is. It’s a classy touch, and, at the rear of the hall, the ushers link arms and sway gently from side to side in time with the music, lost in the moment.

One thing is for sure: had original singer Lou Gramm been present tonight, this would have been a very different show indeed. And that’s the point. Jones won’t be around forever but his songs will. Maybe it’s time we became a bit less stuffy about who’s in the band and simply enjoy the music?

Bruce Watson, Mick Jones and the choir

Bruce Watson, Mick Jones and the choir (Image credit: Photo by Kevin Nixon)

Double Vision
Head Games
Cold as Ice
Waiting for a Girl Like You
That Was Yesterday
Dirty White Boy
Say You Will
Feels Like the First Time
Juke Box Hero

Long, Long Way From Home
I Want to Know What Love Is
Hot Blooded

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.