09/26/15 Oklahoma State Fairgrounds
10/09/15 Las Vegas, NV Golden Nugget Hotel
11/07/15 Green Bay, WI Meyer Theatre
11/11/15 Monterrey, Mexico Arena Monterrey
11/12/15 Mexico City, Mexico Teatro Metropolitan
Lou Gramm, "The Voice of Foreigner"
The now 65 year-old Gramm has had more than his share of ups and downs since leaving Foreigner twice (the last time being over ten years ago; with most notably, a life-threatening brain tumor that affected his pituitary gland, weight, voice, and stamina), but after a long and gradual road back, he’s back in much better form and ready to entertain everyone again, that grew up with his music.
Beginning his set with the intro sounds of car engine roars, jungle drums, and police sirens, Gramm and band (Michael Staertow – lead guitar; AD Zimmer – bass; Andy Knoll – keyboards, synthesizer; and Ben Gramm – drums, percussion) stormed the stage with 1978 Foreigner hit, ‘Double Vision’, the title track from the band’s second full-length.
Gramm is in much stronger voice than even a few years ago, his voice retaining that signature growl and tone that was so familiar on FM radio from the late ‘70s onward. Like most singers of generation still performing, some of the songs were taken to a lower key to accommodate a more limited range, but the crowd didn’t seem to care, happy to sing along to songs most grew up with.
1977’s ‘Feels Like the First Time’ was next, from the band’s debut, followed by Gramm’s solo hit from his second album, ‘Just Between You and Me’. “On this warm night…we brought some ice to the party”, Gramm mentioned before he and band launched into 1977’s ‘Cold as Ice’.
1984’s ‘That Was Yesterday’ was the full version, complete with first verse piano intro, and with no choir backing him, the crowd become the makeshift “Minnesota Gospel Choir”, singing along to Foreigner’s biggest hit, ‘I Want to Know What Love Is’.
“Now this…is an emergency!” Gramm cried before going into Foreigner’s ‘Urgent’, the keyboards doing double-duty by mimicking the saxophone solo. Gramm’s brother Ben got a turn in the spotlight with a late-set drum solo before the main set ended with the familiar bass drum and synth intro-ing ‘Jukebox Hero’.
Gramm in Minnesota Twins jersey
“We’ve had a lot of fun…we’re gonna do this again”, Gramm said waving to the audience on his way out the first night and was true to his word, bringing those timeless hits back, one more time on the following night. Anyone curious about Gramm’s journey as a person and performer is encouraged to seek out his 2013 memoir, Juke Box Hero: My Five Decades in Rock 'n' Roll (Titan Books).
“I knew a lot of those songs”, my girlfriend mentioned after the first night, “…more than I thought”. A State Fair policeman standing nearby that also took in the concert, replied to her, “You should know all of those songs” as anyone growing up in the Heartland to classic rock radio, would also confirm.
Lou Gramm at Leinie Lodge Bandshell, Minnesota State Fair (02 and 03 Sept 2015)