You could count on one hand the number of original members in both bands Tuesday night when Foreigner and Styx played Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre – especially with Foreigner’s founding guitarist Mick Jones inexplicably missing from the stage.
But to dismiss their Soundtrack of Summer Tour – with the bands co-headlining and taking turns going first – for that reason would be like going to dinner at a famous chef’s restaurant to eat the delicious mashed potatoes he made but then skipping the chateaubriand put on the table by the rest of the talented staff.
It was Foreigner’s turn to start, and they sent out a few favorites rapid-fire and crisply, starting with “Double Vision,” moving on to “Head Games,” and then bringing the audience in on “Cold as Ice” before telling the audience to go ahead and sit down to fully enjoy “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” Hey, we’re all getting up there, so we did.
Lead singer Kelly Hansen, formerly of Hurricane, channels Lou Gramm in the best ways – he doesn’t have quite the rich vocal timbre Gramm offered, but his range is impressive, and his infectious energy went a long way. Once or twice, he got a little warbly on the high notes, but the crowd fell in love when he confessed that he had lived in Colorado for 5 years, in Aurora, no less. “There’s my brother,” he said, pointing to him in the crowd. “Don’t talk to him; he’s a dick.”
For the most part, the band stuck with the familiar, with two exceptions. They threw in a new arrangement on “Say You Will,” with the multi-talented Tom Gimbel, former saxophonist with Aerosmith, playing a mean…flute. (He also nailed the crucial sax parts on “Urgent,” by the way.) And then, in what was unquestionably one of the highlights of the whole evening, the band brought out Green Mountain High School’s choir from Lakewood to sing along on “I Want to Know What Love Is.” The other from Foreigner’s set: “Juke Box Hero,” with an extended jam that found guitarist Bruce Watson working overtime.
Still, we missed Mick.
Then it was Styx’s turn, and time to see what time has done to guitarists/singers Tommy Shaw (now 60) and James “JY” Young (64, and one of the band’s founding members). Turns out, not much (Shaw’s hair is way better, that’s for sure). Unlike so many out there on the geezer parade (I’m talking to you, David Lee Roth), Shaw’s voice is spectacular. “Too Much Time on My Hands” didn’t sound much different from 1981, and it was even more noticeably strong when he slowed down “Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man) – which almost had an acoustic quality to it, and showcased his still-savvy guitar skills, as well.
The Styx set wasn’t quite as solid as Foreigner’s, however. Why the goofy, pseudo-psychedelic “Superstars,” with its insipid grating falsetto, instead of other, more likeable songs (they didn’t do “Suite Madame Blue,” for instance, or “The Best of Times”)?
And at some point, Colorado will get tired of being told it has legalized marijuana. “We did not sing this song for 30 years…” the band shared gleefully before trotting out “Light Up” in honor of “the voters.” Of course, few people use a lighter, so folks dutifully trotted out their cell phones, and some pulled out a vape pen and lit that up.
Then the band brought out opener Don Felder, a superb guitarist who once toured with (and was famously fired by) the Eagles. He joined in on “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)” before the night got a little silly again with vocalist and keyboardist Lawrence Gowan, the band’s solid replacement for Dennis DeYoung, doing a medley of tiny snippets that started with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and ended with “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Fortunately, it segued into a buoyant version of “Come Sail Away.”
And that’s what was most apparent from both bands: These guys weren’t just going through the motions. Even after Styx ended with “Renegade,” they kept throwing out handfuls of guitar picks and other merchandise, shaking hands and waving, and then they joined hands to bow, all wearing big grins on their faces.
They all looked like little kids having the time of their lives.
Cold as Ice
Waiting for a Girl Like You
Dirty White Boy
Say You Will
Feels Like the First Time
Juke Box Hero
I Want to Know What Love Is
The Grand Illusion
Too Much Time on My Hands
Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)
Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)
Medley: You Can’t Always Get What You Want/Live and Let Die/ Light My Fire/Bohemian Rhapsody
Come Sail Away
Rockin’ the Paradise
Kyle Wagner is a regular contributor to Reverb and travel editor at The Denver Post.
John Leyba is a Denver Post photojournalist and regular contributor to Reverb.