Live review: Foreigner, Styx, Kansas @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre - Reverb

Live review: Foreigner, Styx, Kansas @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Foreigner dug into Red Rocks on Memorial Day for a night of nostalgic hits. Photo by Alan Cox.

Foreigner dug into Red Rocks on Memorial Day for a night of nostalgic hits. Photo by Alan Cox.

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.

View a full photo galleries of Styx and Foreigner.

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.

View a full photo gallery of Styx.

View a full photo gallery of Foreigner.

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Colleen Smith’s first novel, Glass Halo, will be released this summer by Friday Jones Publishing.

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.

  • Alan Cox

    Despite both bands reaching their commercial zenith over 20 years ago, Styx had more original members, authenticity and overall charisma to be the better of the two two bands on stage Sunday night. Tommy Shaw has steered Styx away from the softer side of the group's recordings, and his energetic performances keep the band classic without the fear of being too old to rock.

  • Sue Jacobsen

    What a GREAT concert!!! The line-up of Kansas, Styx, and Foreigner cannot be beat, but Foreigner stole the show. The energy, enthusiasm, showmanship, and talent of Foreigner was phenomenal…I have never had more fun at a concert in my life. I was a big fan of Foreigner back in the day, but even a bigger fan now! Oh what a night…

  • sofablue

    The equivalent of “camel toe” for males is HOT! HOT! HOT! I bought the Foreigner CD/DVD and the NEW music is wonderful! A must buy. It's called “Can't Slow Down”. Especially nice was that half of the proceeds went to a local school music program and students from the Rocky Mountain Chorus were able to join the band on stage singing, “I Wanna Know what Love Is.” Music in schools needs our support! Talent never ages, and the bands were all very into it. I can't believe James Young is supposed to be 60! No way you could tell that! Tommy Shaw is perennially young! And I love Jeff Pilson, always bopping to the music! Kansas reminded me of some of my favorite music. It was so wonderful to hear live! Break out those vinyls or download the classics, you'll be rocking out in no time!

  • Mick Jones

    Another lame music reviewer concerned more with age and looks than song writing and live performance, bet he does a great review of the American Idol tour!BTW, the name of the song is Starrider.

  • Alan Cox

    All three bands were very enjoyable, first and foremost due to the fact that the material they played is so strong and has held up so well through the years. Jeff Pilson is a huge contributor to the energy of the Foreigner show. He deserves props. The catalog of Foreginer speaks for itself and the band's overall performance was strong and they sounded good. Styx was, in my personal opinion, even better. All three bands should take great comfort in knowing that, despite some very challenging economic times, in the words of Jukebox Hero, “It was a sold out show.” Some older bands with a strong catalog are a bit tragic to see play live. I don't care how old a performer is, but age can and often does affect the performance. In the case of all three bands in this show it's worth noting that age WAS NOT a factor in the quality of the band's performance. This should be viewed as a positive statement.

  • sofablue

    You're right, age can affect the voice or the ability to play to the speed or quality necessary. But the basic talent that these people brought to these bands created music that has lasted throughout the years. I am glad that Foreigner found the opportunity to record some new music. Where does that put them categorically? They play music from decades ago, yet have a new release. Is that a new genre? I see a few very good bands, like the Moody Blues, who have sell out shows and have a lead singer whose voice still holds up. Others have recruited new members to carry on. There should be some more definitions. More importantly, I wish there was more opportunity for new recordings from these people.