Foreigner, playing Thursday in Salina, remains in the spotlight

04/06/2012 5:00 AM

04/08/2012 8:27 AM

When a rock band phones in a below-par performance, it’s one of the mightiest sins of all.

That’s the undying belief of Kelly Hansen, the lead singer of Foreigner, who said the band proudly plays each concert as if it were a televised, farewell event.

“Some bands are kind of phony,” he said during a recent telephone interview. “But we really like each other, and we enjoy what we’re doing. Doing the shows, playing in front of the crowds, that’s the best.”

Despite the absence of original singer Lou Gramm, Foreigner remains a vital, hungry entity in the spotlight, thanks to the presence of founding guitarist-songwriter-producer Mick Jones, Hansen said. When one throws saxophonist/guitarist Tom Gimbel, keyboardist Michael Bluestein, drummer Mark Schulman and former Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson into the mix, Foreigner becomes unstoppable with a P.A. system, he said.

“We’re so fortunate because our fans know the music so well, and I’m fortunate to be a singer in a band where there are so many well-crafted, popular songs,” Hansen said. “It’s good that so many people love the songs of Foreigner.”

Foreigner’s string of hits and cherished deep-album cuts include “Cold As Ice,” “Juke Box Hero,” “Long, Long Way From Home,” “Double Vision,” “Head Games,” “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” “Feels Like the First Time,” “Say You Will” and “Fool for You Anyway.” In Hansen’s mind, there’s not a definitive Foreigner track.

“I don’t have a favorite song to sing or play each night, because they all are of such great quality,” Hansen said. “They’re apples and oranges, and the aspects of the gig change all of the time — is it a big gig or a small crowd, and are we playing indoors or is it an outdoor show?

“Things like that make the shows different, and so on some days, I’ll prefer apples, and then another day I’ll want oranges,” he added. “They’re all just great songs, and I enjoy them individually. We are so lucky to be able to do this.”

Hansen admitted he was a bit nervous when taking over lead-vocal chores from the departed Gramm in 2005.

“Pressure? What? No pressure,” Hansen said with a laugh. “Yeah, there was a lot of pressure stepping into a band that has created such a history and such a level of quality songs. But I got full support from Mick Jones and the other guys from Day One.”

Hansen gives that kind of support back to his colleagues, as well as giving time to be an advocate for music and art programs in schools.

“Music and art programs in schools, unfortunately, are the first things cut from budgets,” he said. “We need art and music programs. They make well-rounded people and make them tolerant to deal with others, both in their world and outside of their worlds.

“Music, literature and performance classes do provide a window to the world, so people can see outside their world,” Hansen added. “Music and art teach tolerance — to not be fearful of the unknown. We’ve got to keep providing music and art to students.”

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