Foreigner is WRMC’s first sold-out gala

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 101 views 

FAYETTEVILLE — The Washington Regional Foundation’s annual fundraising gala has always been a mix of bling and jeans — black-tie types on the main floor and the rowdy rock fans in the balcony.

By the night’s end, all are on their feet, their collective derrieres swinging together in time to the same beat.

The source of much tail-wagging this year is rock band Foreigner, a list of whose highly recognizable Top 30 hits could take up the rest of this page (if it were a page and not on the Internet). A few of the band’s nine Top 10 hits include “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Double Vision,” “Hot Blooded,” “Cold as Ice,” “Urgent,” and “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” The band has sold more than 70 million albums worldwide, including $37.5 million in the United States alone.

At least some of that vinyl landed in Northwest Arkansas because Foreigner’s performance, slated for Tuesday (April 10) at the Walton Arts Center, is the first sell-out in the 19-year history of the hospital gala. As of Friday (April 6), foundation officials had already counted $184,000 in sponsorship money. Proceeds from this year’s event will go to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

As a testament to Foreigner’s long-standing universal appeal, the band has three hits in the June release of the movie Rock of Ages starring Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Though Foreigner did not have any songs in the Broadway hit musical that inspired the movie, the flick features more Foreigner tunes than any other artist. Cruise sings “I Want to Know What Love Is,” and Baldwin sings “Juke Box Hero.”

“I’m excited about the movie because I know that a lot of people are going to be able to either reacquaint themselves with the band or introduce themselves to the band,” said Kelly Hansen, who has been the front man for Foreigner since 2005. “It’s a great thing to see these songs get recognized on such a large scale.”

Foreigner in its current form seems to be enjoying as much success as the original lineup that came together in 1976 under British co-founder and leader Mick Jones, who is still with the band, playing lead guitar. Lead vocal duties fall now to Hansen, with Jeff Pilson on bass, Tom Gimbel on sax and other instruments, Michael Bluestein on keyboard and Mark Shulman on drums.

Last year, Foreigner wrapped up a sold-out world tour with Journey and Night Ranger. Then in September, the band released Feels Like the First Time — a three-disc set including a CD of Foreigner classics redone by the current lineup, a CD of “unplugged” Foreigner favorites and a full-length concert DVD recorded in Chicago.

“We kind of wanted to show people what this band sounds like,” said Hansen. Particularly with CD of unplugged hits, “hearing those songs acoustically is like hearing them again for the first time.”

Following the band’s record-breaking tour last year, Foreigner decided to extend the electric part of its show and play to a series of smaller venues “so we could get back in touch with the crowds a little bit,” Hansen added. Later this year, the band plans to do some acoustic shows to tie in with the promotion of the Feels Like the First Time CD/DVD set.

“Playing for people who come down and want to see you play, especially doing it for a good cause … it’s great to have the opportunity to do that,” Hansen said.

There’s no Foreigner song that he prefers over another.

“I’m not really a ‘favorites’ person,” he said. “I enjoy things individually and take them as they are. For me to compare them is comparing apples and oranges. One day you love eating an apple and another day you love eating an orange. They’re both great, and they’re both different.

“And even though we might be playing a similar setlist every night, the show is different because the ambiance is different.”

Those attending the Washington Regional Foundation gala are the winners of this year’s Eagle Awards: Dr. Hershey Garner, Dr. Merlin Augustine and the Arkansas Support Network. All are philanthropists and celebrities, if not rock starts in their own right.

Foreigner fans who didn’t get a ticket to the show can watch a recording of the band in concert in Chicago on the Palladia network three times this month. For channels and times, go here.

Foreigner’s 16 Top 30 hits:

“I Want To Know What Love Is” (No. 1)
“Waiting For A Girl Like You” (No. 2)
“Double Vision” (No. 2)
“Hot Blooded” (No. 3)
“Urgent”  (No. 4)
“Feels Like The First Time” (No. 4)
“I Don’t Want To Live Without You”  (No. 5)
“Say You Will” (No. 6)
“Cold As Ice” (No. 6)
“That Was Yesterday”  (No. 12)
“Dirty White Boy” (No. 12)
“Head Games” (No. 14)
“Blue Morning, Blue Day” (No. 15)
“Long, Long Way From Home” (No. 20)
“Juke Box Hero” (No. 26)
 “Break It Up” (No. 26)