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Journey and Foreigner's new frontmen have the swagger down pat
by Ross Raihala - Pioneer Press
July 29, 2011

Lead singers. Can't live with them, can't live without them. Or maybe you can.

Two of the biggest bands from the late '70s and early '80s - Journey and Foreigner - played the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night and proved it is possible to replace an errant rock-and-roll frontman, as long as you replace him with another guy who sounds exactly the same.

Foreigner lost Lou Gramm to a brain tumor that changed both his voice and his priorities - he now makes Christian rock records - while Journey fell out with Steve Perry years ago over, no lie, the timing of his hip-replacement surgery.

Given that mortgages don't pay themselves, both bands cycled through a few vocalists before settling on guys skilled at Xerox-like replication.

In the case of Foreigner, guitarist and songwriter Mick Jones is the only founding member left in the group, and since 2005, he has employed metal vet Kelly Hansen up front. The 50-year-old, who led the long-forgotten hairspray act Hurricane, not only nailed Gramm's classics Thursday night but did so with the sort of arrogant confidence one expects from a sleazy rock singer. (He also looked the part, too, coming off a bit like Steven Tyler's little brother.)

While Foreigner has released new music as recently as 2009, the band wisely stuck to the big, and old, guns. Every song they played was a hit from their golden era, from "Feels Like the First Time" to "Hot Blooded" to "Waiting for a Girl Like You." It was an hourlong classic-rock block, delivered with a wink and a smile.

What makes Foreigner's hits still resonate today is the ridiculous, hedonistic thread that runs through them. Journey specialized in uplifting jock jams, but Foreigner's songs worked best as the soundtrack for small-town teens to get wasted and have sex with each other on the hoods of Trans Ams.

Speaking of Journey, they recruited Filipino pop star Arnel Pineda in 2007 after hearing his jaw-dropping impersonation of Perry via YouTube.

And, wow, he truly does replicate Perry's vocal mannerisms to an almost eerie degree. Now in his second major tour with Journey, Pineda seems to have settled rather comfortably into the lead singer position. And at 43, he brings a real, fresh energy to a band in which most members have a good 15 to 20 years on him.

Really, though, both Journey and Foreigner - along with openers Night Ranger, who plowed through a guitar-heavy 30-minute set - delivered pretty much everything the revved-up crowd of 13,563 could have hoped to hear.

The tour, which is hitting mostly outdoor amphitheaters, was designed with enough shock and awe to compete with all the distractions of a gorgeous summer evening.

It may sound crazy, but the show felt even more powerful and goofy and fun when confined within the walls of a hockey arena. Hold on to that feeling, man.

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