Memorial Day is for remembering and the holiday weekend serves as one bookend of summer. Retro rock ‘n’ roll at Red Rocks proved an ideal way to induce memories and start summer off with a bang. And blistering guitar wails. And a penetrating decibel level that left a sonic boom lingering in my ribcage and a vague ache in my ears.
The “United in Rock” tour tossed together three hard-rock acts from my salad days. Though my CD collection includes neither Foreigner nor Kansas nor Styx, I owned their music in vinyl and 8-track and cassette. Last night, this trio of bands threw it down for a sold-out show on the rocks and their head-banging hits and prom slow-dance tunes held up.
Kansas heated up the rocks with “Dust in the Wind” and got the crowd on their feet for “Carry on Wayward Son.” The band just celebrated its 35th anniversary, harmonies intact.
The members of Styx demonstrated their stage prowess, preening and posturing with their instruments, including a vintage, made-in-the-U.S.A. Fender guitar. They rocked old favorites: “Lady,” “Blue Collar Man,” “Too Much Time on My Hands,” “Come Sail Away,” “Fooling Yourself” and “Lorelei.” After their two-song encore, a fan in the row behind us caught a drumstick tossed by Todd Sucherman, voted No. 1 Rock Drummer by Modern Drummer readers in 2009.
Journeyman rocker Mick Jones is the only remaining original member of Foreigner, and he took a turn at the mic for his hit “Sky Rider.” After Foreigner frontman Lou Gramm went solo, the band added lead singer Kelly Hansen about five years ago. Hansen breathes new life into the band’s laundry list of hits — “Double Vision,” “I Want To Know What Love Is,” “Dirty White Boy,” “Juke Box Hero,” “Head Games,” “Hot Blooded” and “Feels Like the First Time.”
While singing “Cold as Ice,” Hansen leaped the security rail and sallied forth into the crowd. He headed down our aisle and right past me so I was able to pat him on the back. Literally. And he deserves a pat on the back for belting songs that made Foreigner famous, all while wearing the world’s tightest jeans. (What is the male equivalent of “camel toe”?)
All the bands were gracious, clearly excited to be performing on the rocks again. They thanked the audience for their support over the years — make that decades.
Each of these classic hard rock bands has virtuoso guitarists, thunderous drummers and strong vocals in the high range. The aging rockers tossed guitar picks and drum sticks like confetti. And though there’s evidence of male pattern baldness on some of the band members, on stage they played as if young again — if only during that set, on that stage, facing the fist-pumping crowd and those spectacular red rocks.
As we shuffled out of the amphitheater, eardrums throbbing, we looked down on the moon rising, cantaloupe-colored and — like the bands — waning yet still remarkable.
Follow Reverb on Twitter! Here!
Alan Cox is the president/creative director of Cox Creative, a Highlands Ranch-based creative shop. He works too much, sleeps too little and spends every free moment coaching baseball, shooting images and hanging out with his rowdy sons and rowdier wife. Check out his photos here.