There's nothing like a 'sold out' sign at Newcastle City Hall ahead of a Friday night rock show. It only took two weeks to sell every ticket for this triple bill of AOR goodness and the pre-gig atmosphere was electric.
Evoking memories of this venue’s legendary shows of the past, the spirit of Dio, Bonham, Lynott et al was felt keenly by those flocking to the venue like it was the 1980s all over again. Bizarrely the buzz on the streets – and around the merchandise stands in the foyer – had dissipated to a degree by the time FM hit the stage at 7pm. This was nothing to do with the much-loved British band – enjoying a sustained comeback and writing some of the best new melodic rock in the business – but perhaps a sign that with four hours of entertainment on the cards an ‘older’ audience had opted to pace itself.
FM did receive a richly deserved standing ovation but the majority of those present retreated to their seats – and stayed there – by the time Europe strode on to stage. The classy Scandinavians deserved a far better response from a tepid crowd as they mixed chart-busting favourites Carrie, Cherokee and Rock The Night with the best of their more recent blues-laden output. Frontman Joey Tempest introduced lyrics penned by local favourites David Coverdale and Sting into two of his songs in a bid to spark a response. Yet even The Final Countdown – the ultimate 80s party anthem – failed to get the masses dancing.
Where Europe and Tempest had tried and failed, Foreigner singer Kelly Hansen was determined to get the Newcastle faithful going. However, it was a damning indictment of a strangely flat Friday night crowd that he was forced to get amongst the City Hall fans and cajole them into standing during the headline set.
Once the charismatic Californian had shaken up the stalls and reprimanded the punters, this slowburning triple header finally burst into life.
Maybe Hansen had been watching from the wings and maybe he just wasn’t prepared to face rows and rows of diffident punters uploading the odd video clip to Twitter and lazily tapping along to a slew of bona fide soft rock classics.
Whatever his reasons for jumping into the crowd it was during Cold As Ice that things finally warmed up. Hansen hadn’t sounded great during opener Double Vision and Head Games but his foray into the fan zone coincided with a marked improvement. Fuelled by adrenaline he was firing on all cylinders by the time Mick Jones finally made his grand entrance after Waiting For A Girl Like You. Together Foreigner’s main men drove a dazzling set forward – ably assisted by multi-instrumentalist Thom Gimbel.
A sparkling finale featuring Long, Long Way From Home, I Want To Know What Love Is and Hot Blooded brought the house down. And while there are those who would love to see Lou Gramm added to the Foreigner mix it’s hard to argue against Hansen’s qualities as the quintessential rock frontman.