Despite popular belief, Judge Mike Rubino is not a "Dirty White Boy."
"Standing in the rain, with his head hung low
A pact, fused by lightning and passion, united Mick Jones with ex-King Crimson member Ian McDonald to form one of the biggest arena rock bands of all time: Foreigner. Their initial studio releases in the late '70s tore up the charts with hits like "Feels Like the First Time" and "Double Vision." They were on top of the world, which was also at their mercy! Flash forward a couple decades, and twenty-one band members, later and we find the group reformed and rocking in German at the Bang Your Head!!! Festival.
Sure they only have one of the original band members left (Jones), but what '80s band performing today hasn't gone through a few members? The new Foreigner now features Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham's son, Jason, along with Kelly Hansen, Jeff Pilson (formerly with Dokken and Dio!), Tom Gimbel, and Jeff Jacobs. While they may have changed around the players, the entity that is "Foreigner" still knows how to rock in the sort-of-hard way they always have.
The Bang Your Head!!! Festival (yes, there are three exclamation points in there) is an annual heavy metal concert held in Germany. Apparently, the band just happened to be passing through on its long comeback tour through Europe when they were invited to play. Wisely, the group dropped the ballads from their set list and went with a solid 60 minutes of upbeat classics. Many bands from the "classic rock" era that are still playing today sound like withered shells of their former selves, but Foreigner sounds like they did the first time—the very first time. Jones keeps finding younger guys to stand in for the original folks, and he has done an excellent job with his latest group. Kelly Hansen, the new singer (and apparently a Steven Tyler look-alike), is able to fill the shoes of the band's original singer, Lou Gramm.
Foreigner: Alive & Rockin' is a concert DVD that does justice to the new lineup. Performance-wise, the band is excellent; they're upbeat, they're professional, and they are able to get this very large, very German, crowd pumping their fists and banging their heads. This felt like a pretty strong accomplishment, given that the band is a tad out of place at the metal-centric festival. It's strange watching them perform like this in broad daylight. The band's massive setup includes hundreds of lights and fog machines, most of which are wasted by the time slot they were handed in the festival's schedule. They also try their best to fill the wide stage, but at times the camera work makes the space feel awkward (especially when Hansen is seen running across the stage to get to his tambourine).
Because the band only had a 60-minute set, they only played ten songs:
I found myself comparing this concert with one of the few other concert DVDs I own: Stop Making Sense by the Talking Heads. The difference here, of course, is that Stop Making Sense was directed by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) and was made for the theaters. It had direction and planned camera movements, along with staging and theatrics. Foreigner: Alive & Rockin' is a more natural, immediate kind of concert film. Much of the editing seems to have been done on the fly, just as you would have seen it on the JumboTron at a concert. Because the video employs a cheaper, more improvised method of filming, the quality of the visuals tends to vary. There are some really good crane shots and close-ups one minute, and some ugly handheld shots and crotch angles the next. The filming methods of this concert were more on par with the concert scenes in This is Spinal Tap than anything involving David Byrne. You may ask yourself, does it matter what the concert looks like if it sounds good?
Don't worry, the concert sounds great. The DVD comes with both Dolby Stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound tracks that sound almost like studio recordings (except for the fact that the audience goes crazy after every song). The video quality is pretty good, although definitely not perfect. At times it feels a little too digital for my taste, and the colors are largely flat and washed-out—probably due to what looks like an overcast sky. Again, though, the real purpose of this DVD is to appreciate the actual concert, and Eagle Vision, which released this concert, does a great job in making me feel like I'm almost there.
Aside from just the concert, the disc also includes a few interviews with Mick Jones, Kelly Hansen, and Jason Bonham along with a featurette called "Foreigner TV." The interviews are pretty terrible. They do an admirable job of allowing the musicians to talk, but it looks like they were filmed in some hotel room. They also didn't mic the person asking the questions, making it very hard to even know what's prompting their answers. Everything seems really unprofessional, especially during the Hansen interview: he's asked about some private show and proceeds to have a conversation with the interviewer about why he doesn't want to tell the story. I think Bonham's interview was filmed in an alley. Making matters worse is the "Foreigner TV" video, which is supposed to be a man-on-the-street video about the fans of Foreigner. Really, it's just a bunch of clips of drunk mid-lifers stumbling around an amphitheater belting out Foreigner songs. I'm glad Foreigner TV isn't included in my cable package.
Overall, if you're a fan of Foreigner, or someone looking for a way to familiarize yourself with the band, this concert is a great reference. The band gives a rockin' performance at the Bang Your Head!!! Festival (I had to say it one more time), and comes off as fresh as they were back in the day. Just don't worry too much about the special features.
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Studio: Eagle Vision
• Interviews with Mick Jones, Kelly Hansen, and Jason Bonham
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