Macon City Auditorium • 11/12/21
by Roi Tamkin
On a brisk autumn night in middle Georgia, Foreigner played at the Macon City Auditorium to a loud and appreciative audience. I was looking forward to seeing this band again after seeing them in 2018 playing with Cheap Trick in Charlotte, North Carolina. I am not a huge fan of Foreigner, but I remember all their hits from the mid ’70s on to the ’80s. Their 2018 show really impressed me—the lead singer had incredible stage presence, and I enjoyed the overall “show” of their tight set blending one hit after another for 90 minutes or so. They stopped touring for 16 months, and with many COVID-19 restrictions lifted, they have been touring the U.S. with stops through the Southeast.
But things have changed in three years. Mick Jones, the co-founder of the band, is battling health issues and was not playing with the band. It didn’t bother me that I was seeing a band named Foreigner with no original members. They are calling it The Greatest Hits Tour. I enjoyed hearing their catalog of top tens and remembering how I sang along to the radio in my adolescence. No Mick Jones, no Lou Gramm, no matter. Kelly Hansen does an outstanding job of singing the hits and keeping the audience engaged. He commands the stage, running from end to end making sure we’re clapping along and even giving us the lyrics to make sure some of the old-timers in the crowd actually sing along to the correct song. They opened with two string songs: “Double Vision” followed by “Headgames.” After the third song, Hansen stopped to embarrass a couple that arrived late to their front row seats. “Now that you’re here, may we start the show?” Oh, Kelly got jokes! His ribbing the audience set the tone for the evening. With no opening act, the band had to fill two hours without two hours worth of hits to play. The band played looser, with more freedom to explore extended intros, a longer drum solo for Chris Frazier, and a keyboard solo by Michael Bluestein. And more of Kelly’s jokes. Between songs Kelly would chat with the audience.
This tour marks the 40th anniversary of the Foreigner 4 album. He could tell by looking out at the crowd that most people were over 40. Over 50. And some over 60. He asked if people could remain standing throughout the show, because with the fat asses that come with age, we need to stand and move around to keep the blood circulating. He asked if we remember things like rolling up a cassette tape with a pencil then laughed that people under 40 don’t know what a cassette tape is. Or a pencil. More jokes. The show continued with more hits.
Each band member was making good use of the large stage and moving close to the front rows. A real crowd pleaser was bassist Jeff Pilson, ex-Dokken bassist. Someone from the balcony seats began chanting his name, and the chant spread to the seats on the floor. Luis Maldonado is the newcomer to the band, playing rhythm guitar to Bruce Watson’s lead. The band’s high energy kept the show moving through the songs. It’s easy to tell these six musicians enjoy performing with each other. That joy spread to the audience as they sang and danced along to each song right through the encore and the band’s ceremonial bow at the end.
So, this band named Foreigner is rambling on with their U.S. tour, including a two-week residency at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Maybe Mick Jones will be back on his feet again and show us what a Jukebox Hero looks like. Just a note on the venue: Macon City Auditorium is an old building that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. It is near 100 years old, with only 2,688 seats, but don’t discount it as a venue for live music. The light show is minimal, but the sound quality is very high. It’s an intimate theater without a bad seat in the house, and they are able to bring in acts that people of a certain generation will want to see. In a few weeks Chicago will play in Macon. And these tickets are not at Vegas prices.