When this tour was announced it was right at the top of my must see of 2014. Why? Firstly, I’d never managed to get to see Foreigner in the flesh before and having enjoyed FM at HRH AOR in 2013 I was ready to see them again. However, the big reason was Europe – having witnessed the Bag of Bones tour (http://www.rock-zone.co.uk/2012/11/29/europe-hmv-ritz-manchester-23rd-november-2012/) and the 30th Anniversary DVD at Sweden Rock (http://www.rock-zone.co.uk/2013/11/01/europe-live-at-sweden-rock-30th-anniversary-show-cddvd/), I knew that Joey and the gang were worth the ticket price themselves but this was one of the growing 3 band tours. Value for money in these days of belt tightening austerity.
First up, at 7pm (on the dot!) were FM. In AOR circles I would imagine that taking this 30 minute support slot was considered a strange choice for Steve Overland, Merv Goldsworthy, Pete Jupp, Jim Kirkpatrick and Jem Davis. With a 30 year celebration this year, surely third on the bill is not the place for them? Clearly amongst friends, FM hit the ground running with “Tough Love” from last year’s “Rockville” album. As ever, a very polished set, Overland’s vocals very much to the fore – this is probably AOR in it’s truest form. It is a rare thing to see the audience take their positiions in such numbers for a support band, but that is testament to FM’s quality and the loyalty of the UK AOR fanbase. All too quickly, the six song, 30 minute (to the second!) set was done and they were gone.
Talking of the audience taking their places, I should say seats. The Apollo was entirely seated for the show tonight. Now, I realise that the demographic of the crowd was going to be slightly older than your average One Direction gig, but all seated? The crowd felt odd, the both FM and Europe struggled a little to generate any oomph from a crowd who seemed to scared/too polite to stand up and rock out (in a slightly grown up manner – no whirling mosh pits were likely, were they?). Anyway, the whizzing, fizzing ball of energy that is Joey Tempest hit the stage and Europe were here to show the crowd that they meant business and picked a set that, was clearly going to contain the big hits but also contained fan/band favourites (“Cherokee”, for example, was introduced as one they “don’t play very often” and apologised if it turned out a bit rough …. yeah right Joey, like there was a chance it was going to be a bit rough?). Mixing old and new, Europe started to get the subdued crowd to come round from the all seated stupor, how could you fail to have your musical loins girded when Europe are on stage? This is a band that have transcended the “hair metal” tag of old (remember Kurt Cobain scrawled “who the f*ck is Joey Tempest?” on a bathroom wall!) whilst retaining the showmanship but have become a bluesy, hard rock band – which, to be honest, looking at their influences they always were. Finishing with, what else, “The Final Countdown” Europe finally got some life out of the crowd – but with rows of seats in the way this was never going to be the bouncing sea of joy that they usually create.
The good manners in the crowd were finally banished by Kelly Hansen within seconds of Foreigner hitting the stage. What a frontman! The only man I’ve seen who exceeded Mr Tempest in the energised stakes, the crowd was on their feet, the band were running around and the opening salvo of “Double Vision” and “Head Games” kick started the Foreigner party. Hansen also took time to have a chair ride around the crowd (I’m sure videos will be on the Tube of You by the time you read this?). Now, at this stage, your hero was in the photo pit trying to get some action packed shots. I say photo pit, we were backed up against the wall, trying to keep out of each others shots … unlike the audience with their camera phones. I have no issue with people taking their own photos but …. we had to sign a contract allowing Foreigner control of the shots we use and we could only shoot the first five songs (that way we don’t ruin the enjoyment of the crowd too much) and “No Flash!”. I have absolutely no issues with that, but when the Apollo security stopped us in the middle of song four and we had experienced a couple of ladies who had over enjoyed the between band wine pushing us out of the way so they could grab some out of focus, happy snaps of the band it was a little bit galling. You will probably be asking, why no picture of Foreigner main man, Mick Jones? Thank the O2 security for that one I’m afraid. Mick didn’t enter the fray until song 5 (“Feels Like the First Time”), but we had been cleared off by security.
However, that meant that I could sit back and enjoy the show…. well stand actually, the arrival of Foreigner signaled the end of the crowd sitting down and the crowd sang, clapped and danced it’s way through the 13 song set. The set was the perfect “Greatest Hits” selection from their career. They rocked far more than “Waiting…” and “I Want to Know … ” suggest and to match Kelly Hansen’s energy, was Jeff Pilsen on bass. The ex-Dokken man also seems to have limitless energy and between them and the quality of the band (tighter than a duck’s behind) this energy infected the Manchester crowd and they fully enjoyed the 13 song set (13? Lucky for us). The appearance of Mick Jones for song 5 onwards was certainly a relief – the crowd had started mumbling about his absence, and I’m still not sure that the “big arrival” was greeted in the spirit it deserved. Not withstanding that, a fantastic show from a fabulous band.
1. Double Vision 2. Head Games 3. Cold As Ice 4. Waiting For A Girl Like You 5. Feels Like The First Time 6. That Was Yesterday 7. Dirty White Boy 8. Starrider 9. Urgent 10. Juke Box Hero Encore: 11. Long, Long Way From Home 12. I Want To Know What Love Is 13. Hot Blooded
1. Riches To Rags 2. Firebox 3. Superstitious 4. Scream Of Anger 5. Girl From Lebanon 6. Carrie 7. Sign Of The Times 8. Cherokee 9. Rock The Night 10. Last Look At Eden
11. The Final Countdown
1. Tough Love 2. I Belong To The Night 3. That Girl 4. Closer To Heaven 5. Crosstown Train 6. Burning My Heart Down