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August 23, 2002

Big Name Entertainment - Part 2

Foreigner at the California State Fair

by Chris Minnick

Before last weekend, I had no idea how many rockin' hit songs of the 80s were by Foreigner. Since I was definitely not "hip" with what kids 2 or 3 years older than me were listening to in the late seventies and early eighties, and since I have a hard time remembering anything that happened before I was 20, I've always mentally lumped Foreigner into the same category as REO Speedwagon and Loverboy.

This is not to say that I didn't know any Foreigner songs back in the day — actually, my favorite song when I was 8 or 9 was by Foreigner ... I just didn't know it. Back in '78, in what was my first musical collaboration with my older brother, we spent hours rehearsing "Hot Blooded" in the basement. He played guitar and I sang. I assumed that it was a song about how we're different from the lizards. That seemed like a pretty cool thing to sing about.

When I saw that Foreigner was going to be at the state fair, I was not immediately struck with the desire to see them. However, Margaret expressed some interest, so I decided to do a little research. HOT DAMN! How could I have been so blind! Foreigner wrote practically every song I love! Ok, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but take a look at this list that I made:

  • Hot Blooded
  • Juke Box Hero
  • Double Vision
  • Cold as Ice
  • Urgent
  • Waiting for a Girl Like You
  • I Want to Know What Love Is (ok, this one sucks)
  • Blue Morning, Blue Day
  • Long, Long Way From Home
I've left out a few notable songs ... but you surely get the picture. These Foreigners are huge! I had to see them.

My next question was: just where are they from that makes them Foreigners? The answer to this question turns out to be more complicated than one would imagine. It actually depends on which particular Foreigner you're talking about. You see, some of the Foreigners are from the U.S., while other are from jolly old England! I can only imagine the wackiness that occurs when they go through customs!

Anyway, we arrived at the State Fair four hours before the Foreigner show was scheduled to start. This gave us plenty of time to eat deep-fried everything, see baby animals of every variety, watch the hypnotist again, and eat more deep-fried food.

By the time we made it to the area where Foreigner was going to play, the place was packed wall-to-wall (pretty good for an outdoor show), and the only room for us was standing off to the side. We did not let this deter us from doing our best to have a great time, however.

Foreigner went on a little late (as rock stars are apt to do). The signature Foreigner guitar sound blasted out of the State Fair speakers in that polite and safe State Fair way ... but blew me backwards nonetheless. It was all downhill from there — albeit fun.

Apparently, the singer has had some troubles and surgeries in the last few years, and it was showing. To say that his voice is severely degraded since the heyday is an understatement. He's also put on more than a few pounds, and he hasn't taken off the mullet. The guitar player, however, was extremely entertaining. He was the embodiment of Rock Star Attitude. The same goes for the sax player ... it's never necessary to fall to your knees or do herky-jerky movements during a solo, but the fact that he did (and did quite well) showed that he was giving 110%. I appreciate that.

In some ways, the show was excellent. Yet it was also a huge disappointment. I was hoping that Foreigner would blow me off my feet and that I would truly appreciate them for their music and their contribution to Rock. I really didn't want to view them in an "ironic generation X cheesy music appreciation" way. However, in the end, that's just what had to happen.

The basic problem with this Foreigner 25 year reunion tour is that it's ridiculous. The singer can't sing half the songs (so they end up playing lots of ballads), the venues are almost exclusively state fairs and Indian casinos, Foreigner live just doesn't sound anywhere near as good as Foreigner recordings, and they've got no sense of humor about the whole thing. By the time they got to the third encore and the singer yelled "We're going to leave you with a little BLOOD!", I honestly didn't care how they left, as long as they did and didn't come back.

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