Foreigner delivers at WRMC gala

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FAYETTEVILLE — As Prince might say, they partied like it was "1999" — or in Foreigner’s case, 1979 — and it was, literally, one for the record books.

From the first chords of the show opener, “Double Vision,” through the last notes of the encore, “Hot Blooded,” members of the classic rock band Foreigner had the Walton Arts Center’s sold-out crowd eating out of then the palm of their hands.

No one would know — or care — that none of the band’s original members appeared on stage Tuesday (April 10) for Washington Regional Foundation’s “An Evening With Foreigner.” The songs fans know and love from the band’s heydays in the late ‘70s and through the ‘80s were performed to perfection by a gifted group of seasoned musicians. No matter how many members have cycled through the band since its inception in 1976 — and there’s been a lot —  the current lineup is playing Foreigner’s hits like they’re being played for "the very first time.”

"I've never been so happy seeing our sponsors and donors have so much fun," said Amy Linimon of the foundation. Tuesday’s event was the first sell-out in the 19-year history of the gala, which is the foundation's largest annual fundraiser. At least $185,000 in sponsorship money was raised.

"By all measures it was the most successful," Linimon said.

Foreigner front man Kelly Hansen was all the flirt, taking Pat Walker’s hand while crooning Foreigner’s No. 2 hit “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” Later, he grabbed Greg Lee by the stunning silver tie he wore (Lee answered by taking off his tie and whipping Hansen’s leg with it). Even without a sense of touch, the crowd seemed to connect on every tune, such as Foreigner’s sole No. 1 hit, “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Juke Box Hero,” “Cold as Ice,” and “Dirty White Boy.”

The whole place seemed to take collective breath before belting out every word of “Feels Like the First Time,” a No. 4 hit from Foreigner’s debut album (notice how the word CD was not used here?) Multi-instrumentalist Tom Gimbel, who has been with Foreigner for 20 years, broke out everything but a washboard and spoons. He took a knee and moved across the stage while belting out the well-known saxophone part in “Urgent.”

In addition to creating a memorable rock concert experience, the show helped raise money for Washington Regional’s neonatal intensive care unit. Those honored with 2012 Eagle awards included Merlin Augustine, Dr. Hershey Garner and the Arkansas Support Network.