Think of the words ‘rock concert’ what comes to mind? Nowadays people tend to call any old show with live music and electric guitars a rock concert but most have no idea what a classic one is. Last night in Boston, rock legends Foreigner reminded 5,000 people at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion exactly what those words mean.
A terrific triple bill of classic rock acts descended on Boston, with Foreigner bringing Cheap Trick and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin experience along with them. The atmosphere for the show started long before doors opened, with a lengthy entry line and lots of VIP ticket holders in the venue early for soundcheck, meet & greets, and keeping beer taps flowing all night long.
Things got started with Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience taking the stage promptly at 7pm, for those who don’t know, Jason Bonham is the son of iconic Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham who passed away in 1980. Jason Bonham has made a career out of honoring his father’s legacy, even playing his late father’s role in actual Zeppelin reunion gigs. Playing as Zeppelin Experience, Bonham and a small group of expert musicians played a 10 pack of Led Zeppelin classics that served as the perfect appetizer for a night of rock & roll. They’re classic songs that everybody knows – “Immigrant Song,” “Ramble On,” “Whole Lotta Love” – and concert goers were singing along, air guitaring and air drumming just like in their heyday.
Shortly following their set, power pop icons Cheap Trick took the stage, performing songs from their lengthy catalog of late 70’s to early 80’s radio hits. It wouldn’t be a true rock concert without a great power ballad and Cheap Trick took care of that, playing “Voices” from their iconic “Dream Police” album. Also making way into their setlist was the classic “Surrender” which had everybody singing along in full throat. It wasn’t all throwbacks however as they would play two songs from their recently released studio album “We’re All Alright!” – an album named after the refrain from the aforementioned “Surrender.”
Between set changes from Cheap Trick to Foreigner the atmosphere in the venue was electric, it had that classic rock concert feel, with people sneaking cigarettes, flying to the concession stands for beer, and even a superfan roaming around the venue looking to purchase things like guitar picks and drum sticks from the lucky fans who caught them. A large black curtain covered everyone’s view of the stage until the very minute Foreigner took to the stage, kicking things off with a bang.
The show was everything you’d want in a rock concert, just the right amount of bombast, impeccable sound, visual thrills, and even Foreigner frontman Kelly Hansen singing from a platform at the soundboard during “Jukebox Hero.” The way things worked when Foreigner was king was a little different than they are now. For one the focus of the show was not as much on playing as many songs as possible, but instead making the ones they did play memorable. A 90 minute set, Foreigner would play only 12 songs, but each one had the feel that encore songs have today. During their actual encore, Foreigner kicked things up a notch bringing out the Middleboro High School choir to join them for “I Want to Know What Love Is.” The choir won an online contest held earlier in the year, a contest Foreigner brings to every city they visit partnered with The Grammy Foundation and aimed at reviving music education in schools. The winning school in each city receives a $500 donation to the school’s music program. By the time Foreigner was wrapping things up with “Hot Blooded” the entire Blue Hills Bank Pavilion had basically turned into a karaoke bar with even the younger fans at the show knowing the words to more songs than they realized.
What’s even more surprising one without a sea of raised cell phones. Not because of some holier than thou policy about not filming or anything like that, but simply because 5,000 people were in the moment having the time of their lives. Rock concerts have changed a lot since Foreigner’s heyday, today most artists gravitate more towards fitting as many songs as possible into a show, and the audience spends more time making social media posts than living in the moment. That’s not a knock on the younger generation or some kind of old person rant about “those damn kids” but just a difference in generation, those folks posting to their socials and facetiming their friends today are still having a blast, their idea of what makes a show enjoyable is just different.
But on a night with a stellar bill of classic rock artists Foreigner reminded all their older fans what a rock concert used to be and exactly why they soared so much in popularity to the level they are today. If you want to know what it was like to go to a show in the golden era of rock concerts, but don’t yet have a time machine, Foreigner’s 40th anniversary tour is as close as you’ll ever get.
Photos - Foreigner, Cheap Trick, Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience - 07/17/17: