Patrons entering the gleaming State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick, NJ, this Friday, October 29, 2021 evening are welcomed into a fully-renovated theater. With new carpet, seats, and restrooms — along with a new elevator, donor lounge, and additional accessible seating — STNJ is celebrating its 100th anniversary season with a fabulous line-up of artists including Gladys Knight, jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, and Broadway’s Waitress, not to mention an epic performance tonight by one of the best-selling rock groups of all time, Foreigner.
Says Colleen from Monroe Twp., “I’ve been to the State Theatre many times before, and it looks wonderful! ” Continuing, “I’m looking forward to hearing Foreigner tonight. I’m a longtime fan, but I’ve never seen them in person,” Colleen reveals, “I’m especially excited this evening because I’m a huge fan of the group’s new guitarist, Luis Maldonado, from Train. I love his playing and I’m just hoping I can possibly catch a guitar pick from him.”
Jorge from Rockaway remarks, “This is my first time seeing Foreigner. I’ve been a fan since I was 15 and I’m 45 now, so I’ve been a fan for 30 years.” Adding, “My favorite song is ‘Urgent,’ but they’re all really good,” Jorge notes, “and this is such a beautiful theater in which to enjoy a concert like this.”
Joanne from Seaside Heights agrees, declaring, “I really like the renovations they’ve done here at STNJ — it looks so nice, and the seats are really comfortable,” and recalling, “This is our second time seeing Foreigner. We’ve been fans for years, and I’m hoping they’ll play my favorite song tonight, ‘Waiting for a Girl Like You.’” Joanne’s husband, Andrew, concurs, acknowledging, “What I really want to hear is their hit, ‘Hot Blooded.’”
Inside the STNJ auditorium, yellow and white lights criss-cross the stage as synthesized sounds build in intensity and keyboardist Michael Bluestein and drummer Chris Frazier take their places. After the announcement, “Ladies and gentlemen, will you please welcome Foreigner,” is made, guitarists Bruce Watson and Luis Maldonado, bassist Jeff Pilson, and lead vocalist Kelly Hanson jump downstage and lights flash to the opening strains of “Double Vision.”
The room is filled with electricity as the band feeds the standing crowd and they, in turn, feed the band, exchanging energy as lights flash on stage and over the audience. Heads bop to the pounding rhythm as Kelly Hansen croons, “Fill my eyes with that double vision/No disguise for that double vision.” Lights flash in time to Chris Frazier’s driving drums and Jeff Pilson’s bass before the crowd explodes cheering and applauding.
Starting off with two guitars and bass, the group launches into “Head Games.” Hanson impresses with his powerful and enticing vocal. Pilson’s long hair flies as his head bops to the beat, and Bruce Watson plays an electrifying guitar solo while lights flash.
The crowd roars, and Pilson eggs on the crowd to cheer even more.
“We are so happy to be back with you all in this beautiful theater!” declares Hanson. After asking the crowd, “How many are here for their first rock concert in over a year?” Hanson exclaims, “Welcome back to live music! Jersey, are you f*cking ready? Let’s get this rolling!”
The iconic chordal keyboard intro opens Foreigner’s 1977 Top 10 hit, “Cold as Ice.”
Hanson sings, “You’re as cold as ice/You’re willing to sacrifice our love,” as Pilson switches from bass to keyboard and Luis Maldonado switches from guitar to bass. Spotlights shine on keyboardist Bluestein and drummer Frazier upstage before Hanson and Maldonado rock out downstage.
The crowd cheers and stage lights swirl as the band segues into their 1981 power ballad, “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” a song which ranked #100 on Billboard’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Hanson croons to a group of female fans waiting at the edge of the stage, hitting all of the high notes with ease before the crowd joins in singing the song’s famous “I’ve been waiting for a girl like you to come into my life” chorus.
Hanson announces, “Here’s one we don’t usually do,” as the band kicks off a rare live-concert number, “Blue Morning.” Watson gets the crowd clapping along and guitars play dancing in line with one another to the driving beat of this rocker which has the crowd rolling.
“Oh, yeah, we like that!” exclaims Hanson. “It’s been a year and four months that we couldn’t stand on this stage together,” joking, “I especially feel for the women — chances are you were probably holed up during the pandemic with a sketchy partner!” before dedicating the group’s next song “to all the ladies in the audience.” Here, he and the band launch into “Dirty White Boy.” Hanson gets the crowd clapping before Watson rocks out on guitar center stage.
Pilson runs around playing his bass and guitars rip it up before Hanson holds his mic out for the crowd to have them join him in singing the “Dirty white boy/Dirty white boy” refrain.
After introducing each band member, Hanson explains, “Foreigner just celebrated its 40th anniversary, so let’s hear it for being over 40!” Joking, “When you’re over 40 you have experience and knowledge — and you can remember rolling up a cassette tape with a pencil,” Hanson introduces the group’s next number stating, “This is the first song you ever heard from this band.” Here, he and his stagemates launch into Foreigner’s debut single, “Feels Like the First Time.”
As lights flash, music lovers stand moving to the beat, and the crowd sings along on the ubiquitous “It feels like the first time/Feels like the very first time” chorus of this feel-good anthem. Accompanied by Bluestein’s swirling keyboards, Pilson’s tight bass, and Frazier’s driving drums, Watson shreds out a guitar solo.
Hanson asks, “Are you people ready to rock?” When the crowd replies in the affirmative, the band responds by playing its 1981 Top 10 hit, “Urgent.” Audience members sing along on the catchy “You say it’s urgent/So urgent” chorus. Vocal harmonies punctuate the performance which features driving drums, Bluestein spinning out synth sounds from a keytar, and a Luis Maldonado guitar solo.
Band members leave the stage as Bluestein retakes his position at the keyboard station and gets the crowd clapping with hands overhead. Bluestein channels Keith Emerson as he plays a hand-over-hand organ solo. Then, he cues Frazier who plays an electrifying drum solo — tossing drum sticks into the air and catching them — lights flashing as he captivates the audience with his talent.
The crowd cheers when Frazier plays a one-handed drum roll and, then, uses the elbow of his other arm to modify the drum’s timbre. Everyone is truly amazed, however, when Frazier pours water onto his drums and plays them as lights shine through to create an innovative live concert water show.
The audience whistles and hollers throughout the display until Frazier stands, picks up a mallet, and crashes his gong. At this point, the entire band returns to play its 1981 hit, “Jukebox Hero.”
With six-part vocals shining through, the group sings, “He’s a juke box hero/Got stars in his eyes” as audience members point in the air while happily singing along.
“Are you feeling real good?” asks Hanson before he does a call and response with the crowd. Hanson plays tambourine as his collegues rock, heads bopping and fingers flying. Pilson plays his electric bass upside down as lights flash and guitars wail. The auditorium erupts with cheers and applause for this rock classic before Hanson twirls the drum set’s cymbals while Frazier plays them on the number’s extended ending.
“Thank you, New Jersey!” shouts Hanson as he and his bandmates leave the stage. Audience members stand, clap, and holler until the group returns, at which point Hansen announces, “You want to hear some more music? You’ve got to make more noise!”
Music lovers in the audience clap overhead to the band’s first encore, “Long, Long Way from Home” and joyfully sing along on the rockin’ “But I’m a long, long way from home” chorus.
Hanson commands, “Stand up people, we need you to sing along! I think you, New Jersey, are going to sing this better than anyone else in the world!” before adding, “I want to introduce the bass player all the way back from the beginning, Rick Wills.” Wills — Foreigner’s original bassist — takes the stage exclaiming, “It’s good to be in New Jersey again!” and Hanson asks audience members to put their arms around someone special and sing along on the group’s 1984 #1 smash, “I Want to Know What Love Is.”
Music lovers wave their phone flashlights back and forth to the slow groove as they sing “I’ve been waiting for a girl like you/To come into my life” with Hanson, supported by swirling keyboards and a solid Wills bass line before the song ends with whistles, cheers, and applause.
“You guys are awesome!” declares Hanson. “It was far too long. To be in front of a New Jersey audience is amazing! Thank you!”
The theater erupts with hot-blooded Jersey spirit as the band launches into its final number of the evening — its 1978 Top 10 hit, “Hot Blooded.” Rockin’ it old school, bassist Pilson plays acoustic guitar as Hanson and the rest of the band rock out to the “I’m hot blooded/I’m hot blooded” refrain.
Frazier tosses his drumstick to Hanson who catches it and then throws it back to Frazier before all of the guitarists jam center stage on this hard-driving number which ends with the roar of a frenzied crowd.
Hanson thanks the audience for coming, telling them to be “kind and loving” and to “take care of each other.” After tossing out picks and drumsticks into the crowd, the musicians take a well-deserved bow, wave, and exit the stage.
As we make our way out of the STNJ auditorium, we chat with several music lovers in the house who share their opinions of tonight’s performance. David from Monroe Twp. comments, “This was a great show — our first one back since the pandemic, in fact — and the band sounded fantastic!” His wife, Dawn, agrees before adding, “We’ve always liked seeing shows in this theater, and it’s even more beautiful now.”
Dan from Middlesex exclaims, “I love Foreigner! My dad introduced me to them when I was in high school. I like all of their songs, and I especially loved all the energy tonight,” before confessing, “On ‘Jukebox Hero’ I got so excited that when I was playing air guitar, I spilled my drink on my mom!”
Dan’s mom, Nadine, says, “It’s ok. It’s just good to be back out again, especially in this theater — it’s gorgeous,” adding, “I love it here, and I’ll be coming back soon to see Waitress.” Nadine’s husband, Allen, calls his experience at STNJ tonight, “Great!” explaining, “It was so good to hear all the oldies again.”
Lastly, we chat with Christine and Michael from Flanders. Recalls Christine, “Foreigner has been my favorite group ever since I heard their first song. I’ve seen them several times and they’re still in good form — even better than before, I’d say. They’re wonderful — fabulous, really — and I know and love all their songs.” Michael concurs, explaining, “We have all their records and we actually still play them.”
Continues Christine, “This was our first time here at STNJ. The theater is lovely, the seats are really comfortable, and the staff is wonderful,” before adding, “We’ll be coming back — we have a lot of concerts to make up for,” before concluding, “We’re having so much fun here tonight. For us, this isn’t just a Foreigner concert — it’s a party!”
To learn more about Foreigner, please go to foreigneronline.com. For information on upcoming performances at State Theatre New Jersey — including The Righteous Brothers on Feb. 19, 2022, and Waitress on April 14-16, 2022 — please click on stnj.org.
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