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Concert Reviews:
Foreigner, et al fuel memories at DTE

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Tuesday, July 17, 2018

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- “We’re looking for some memories!” Foreigner frontman Kelly Hansen shouted to the crowd on Sunday night, July 15, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

And it wasn’t hard to find them.

Sunday’s package -- Foreigner, Whitesnake and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening -- was indeed all about good-time nostalgia, including frequent references to the venue as Pine Knob. It was a textbook example of a heritage rock tour done right; Every song was familiar, and nothing played during the evening dated later than 1987. And rest assured that was fine with a crowd of more than 13,000 that was more than happy to, as Hansen also advised, “find that 20-year-old rock ‘n’ roller you used to be” in themselves.

Foreigner has been dialed in on that task for years now, its nearly 90-minute, 12-song set reprising the group’s glory years of the late 70s and early 80s but with enough energy from the current lineup to make it, er, feel like the first time. Assisted by moving light rig, lasers and modest pyrotechnics, the sextet pounded through favorites such as “Long, Long Way From Home,” “Double Vision,” “Head Games,” Cold As Ice,” “Dirty White Boy” and “Feels Like the First Time,” ratcheting down only on the “Waiting For a Girl Like You,” a vocal showcase for the scarved Hansen.

The best part of all was seeing founder Mick Jones, who was compromised a bit with health issues earlier in the decade, back in prime form, taking the lion’s share of the guitar solos and stretching out particularly on extended renditions of “Feels Like the First Time,” the proggy “Starrider” and “Jukebox Hero,” which Hansen started from an elevated podium in the middle of the DTE pavilion. The hymn-like “I Want To Know What Love Is” was bolstered by the Woodhaven High School Varsity Choir, while a ferocious “Hot Blooded” sent the crowd home rocking and still feeling at least a bit like their younger selves.

The evening started with perhaps the most famous songs of all, as Bonham -- the son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham -- celebrated his 51st birthday by leading his tribute troupe through 45 minutes of classics such “The Immigrant Song,” “Good Times Bad Times,” “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Whole Lotta Love” and “Rock and Roll.” “It’s the best way I know to say thank you for my father...I never got to tell him when he was alive,” Bonham told the crowd.

With Traverse City’s James Dylan, who led a singling of “Happy Birthday” to Bonham during the show, eerily aping Zep’s Robert Plant, the set worked well even without the extensive video accompaniment Bonham uses for his headlining dates. And Japanese guitarist Jimmy Sakurai, with his decidedly Jimmy Page-like dark lots, pulled out a double-neck Gibson SG for a spot-on recreation of the epic “Stairway to Heaven.”

Bonham threw down a formidable gauntlet for Whitesnake to pick up, but frontman David Coverdale and his sextet -- claiming perhaps the best collection of heritage rock hairstyles on the road right now -- answered with a crowd-pleasing hour of well-preserved 80s material such as “Bad Boys,” “Slow an’Easy,” “Crying In The Rain,” “Is This Love” and “Here I Go Again.” The requisite solo showcases by guitarists Reb Beach and Joel Hoestra and hard-hitting drummer Tommy Aldridge were entertaining, if perhaps unnecessary during a set with only nine songs, but Coverdale’s bluesy, hard rock bellow was in solid enough shape to serve anybody’s memories of the halcyon days when they first came out.

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