Foreigner and Styx
with Don Felder
Target Center, Minneapolis
Thursday, July 17, 2014
The massive stage, the grandeur, the lights and lasers, and the overabundance of mullets -- they were all in full effect last night at the Target Center. A packed house gathered to hear the plentiful hits of Foreigner and Styx, and watch the classic music they all love and know so well come to life.
It was the return of Styx as we know them today. They made the rounds to the same venue last year with REO and the Nuge, and once again electrified the room. As the younger fans in the audience rose to their feet, multi-colored lights shimmered as sonic pulses provided a jolt of energy, and set the tone for a satisfying set of all-killer-no-filler 70's staples.
Handling most of the lead vocals since the beginning of the aught years was Lawrence Gowan, standing majestically aboard his rotating keyboard stage and flanked by original guitarists Tommy Shaw, James Young -- along with the rest of what constitutes Styx in 2014. Gowan, who has evolved into the personality of the band, was never humble as he consistently worked the stage and rotated around in rhythm, addressing each end of the audience.
"Just Pretend it's a 'Grand Illusion!!'" he sang triumphantly in sheets of circus colors, making way for cheers from the audience and an evening of nostalgic, Classic Rock delights.
Displaying his chops atop one of the side risers, Tommy Shaw dove headfirst into a flurry of notes that integrated with the pounding drums of the all-too-familiar, "Too Much Time on My Hands". Multiple digital clock readouts rapidly flashed, giving immediacy to the music and Shaw's seasoned voice. The last chorus featured an audience singalong with their collective fists in the air, turning the song into overdrive which eventually came to an effective pitch black stop.
Though the stage set was simple and modest, it provided much opportunity for the rock veterans to really work the room. Trading licks with one another, Shaw and Young ran circles around one another while Gowan rotated in all directions displaying his chiseled physique. None of this was lost on the bevy of females determined to capture the singer with their phone cameras while Gowan serenaded them with a romantic "Lady" that had most couples canoodling and singing along. Mired in 80's references in both sound and visuals, Young addressed the crowd, "I hope you all ate your Wheaties! It's going to be a good night!"
Dueling guitar leads and dutiful keyboard lines commanded the glow of countless smart phones in the audience for "Light Up," setting the mood once again. Charging power chords and vocals for the return to Styx's first big hit allowed for a breakdown and round of choruses as drummer Todd Sucherman's kept the beat for the rousing progression.
For a band that has taken very few breaks in it's career, Styx managed to maintain a freshness for each piece as Shaw acknowledged, "We're still here. We're still doing it. We survived our crazy years."
Styx eventually brought out the opener, Don Felder, to the stage, giving him props as he took the lead in accompanying the band for a scorching, guitar heavy "Blue Collar Man." They all tore through a few leads before they all clapped along with the entire frenzied arena for the pleasing "Do, Do, Do, Do, Do" chorus. After a short break that gave Gowan another chance to shine on his own with a solo piano medley singalong, the band came back for a magnificent "Come Sail Away." With 80's style footage of the Space Shuttle fittingly on the screens behind them, the music took off and the audience went wild, holding their lighters up in the air.
If not for the re-purposed from the 70's stage set -- complete with the band's name in large metallic lettering -- one may not have been so sure just who were performing as Foreigner at the start of their portion of the evening.
In tight jeans, a leather vest and proper trucker mustache, lead singer Kelly Hansen -- who has been in Foreigner since 2005 -- delivered astute run-throughs of "Double Vision" and "Head Games" to set the tone. His vocals meshed well along with former Dokken bassist, Jeff Pilson, and the rest of Foreigner, as the band wasted no time in delivering what the audience came to hear. Though at this point, the only remaining original member of the band, Mick Jones, was nowhere to be seen.
It wasn't until the fifth song of the set that Hansen would introduce the guitarist. Dressed in solid white denim pants, shirt and Tretorn shoes, Jones took the snarling leads that gave the impression that "Feels Like the First Time" Foreigner were performing on stage for the initial time that night.
Jones spent the rest of the evening treating the stage like a shrine to himself, encircled in glowing lights and lasers taking each ravenous lead after another. The massive progressions of "Urgent" allowed for multi-instrumentalist Thom Gimbel to stretch out, trading saxophone licks with Jones.
Working the crowd like a champ, Hansen had everyone on their feet the entire set, diving in the crowd and running through the crowd, high fives all around. It was the 80's once again for "Juke Box Hero" and impressive "I Want to Know What Love Is" that included a local Twin Cities children's choir and Hansen's insistence on group hugs from everyone in the room.
Critic's Bias: In my childhood through to today, this music is ubiquitous and all too often considered "lowbrow". I don't believe in guilty pleasures, but if I'm going to listen to this music, it's fantastic in the live frenzied arena setting that spawned these hits. Such a blast!
The Crowd: Mullets galore!
Overheard in the Crowd: "This is just like our childhood sleepovers all over again!!"
Too Much Time on My Hands
Blue Collar Man
You Can't Always Get What You Want/Light My Fire/Bohemian Rhapsody
Come Sail Away
Rockin' the Paradise
Cold As Ice
Waiting for a Girl Like You
Feels Like the First Time
Juke Box Hero
I Want to Know What Love Is