If you grew up listening to the radio in the ’70s and ’80s, you can probably sing the words to a whole play set of Foreigner hits, such as “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” “Hot Blooded,”“Urgent” and “You’re as Cold as Ice.” The group has had 22 songs on the charts since it formed in 1976, but only one number-one hit: the power ballad “I Want to Know What Love Is,” backed by the New Jersey Mass Choir.
That was 1984. Now, 22 years later, Foreigner has a following across the globe, and is on a tour spanning Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, including a performance at San José’s Melico Salazar Theater March 7, at 8 p.m.
The last two decades have seen band members and hairdos come and go, but the songs are the same. Foreigner pumped out hit records between 1977 and 1991, then coasted through a few years of compilation albums and best-ofs before returning to the recording studio and releasing “Mr. Moonlight” in 1995. The band has put out seven more compilation albums since then.
So, front man Mick Jones – the only original band member on the 2006 tour – has had plenty of practice keeping the Foreigner sound. He and former lead vocalist Lou Gramm were the band’s creative drive in the beginning, writing most songs together, and Jones acted as producer for every album, in addition to playing guitar, piano and keyboards.
The 2006 tour lineup includes drummer Jason Bonham, son of John Bonham of Led Zeppelin fame, who played with his father’s legendary rock group on a few occasions; vocalist Kelly Hansen; Jeff Jacobs on keyboards; Jeff Pilson on bass guitar, and Thom Gimbel on rhythm guitar and sax.
Ticket prices range from $30-74. With an average Costa Rican wage, according to the daily La Nación last year, of $285 for a receptionist or security guard, that seems pretty steep. But supply and demand run the show, and promoter Enrique Salgado of E.S.P. Producciones expects the seats to sell out.
“Seventies music has a quality that’s not out there any more,” Salgado remarked. “And what we pay here for Foreigner is half what they pay in the United States. They don’t do theaters there; they do stadiums with 10,000 people. At the Melico Salazar Theater, you’re sitting five meters away from the artist, and the sound system is incredible.”
But who’s going to put $74 down to see Foreigner?
“You’d expect 40- or 50-year-olds,” Salgado said. “But a lot of young people come because they appreciate it more than the music made today. There’s heart in it – love is the key. Most music today is made commercially, to make a buck.”
But that’s what touring is all about, too.
“Like the Rolling Stones, they charge more than a million (dollars) for a show. They’re doing it for the money. And Foreigner is there too. But if you do something well, it feeds you,” Salgado said.
And the fact is, a beautiful song is a beautiful song.
Tickets are available at Hipermás stores; Juan Bansbach in downtown San José and Multiplaza Escazú, west of San José; Maxibodega in Alajuela, northwest of San José; Häagen-Dazs ice cream parlors in Escazú and the eastern suburb of Curridabat; Tienda Insomnio in Mall San Pedro, east of downtown San José; and online at www.mundoticket.com. For info, call 207-2025.