Back in March I bought tickets to this co-headlining show of Foreigner and Styx, with special guest Don Felder. I could not have imagined what a great night of rock I was in store for last night (7/3/14).
I missed much of the opening band, but I was able catch the fact that they were a cover band, and a damn good one at that. I heard their renditions of “Carry on My Wayward Son” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” and was blown away by both. As someone who recently saw Kansas in concert (back in October), I can say that this singer did “Carry on My Wayward Son” more justice than Steve Walsh did. This was definitely a fantastic way to warm the crowd up for what was to be such a prolific show.
After a moving rendition of the Star Spangled Banner sung by one of America’s own servicewomen (which was preceded by a crowd sing-a-long to the Pledge of Allegiance), Don Felder came onstage to a blistering rendition of Eagles’ classic “Already Gone.” Playing a multitude of guitars throughout his set, Don Felder impressed the crowd during every song. It was not, however, until the last few songs that the whole crowd was on their feet. “Heartache Tonight” and “Life in the Fast Lane” rounded out the set before an amazing version of “Hotel California” closed everything out. Tommy Shaw traded off verses with Don Felder through “Hotel California,” adding to the brilliance of the song. The crowd was clearly very happy with Felder’s set, and everyone was certainly itching for the next act to take the stage. Funny story, after Don Felder’s set, I walked up to try to get a copy of the setlist and one of the security guards at the Susquehanna Bank Center very rudely sent me away from the stage (though it would be another 20 minutes until the next act took the stage, and I was Row 2 in the Pit, so it was not like I had come far to get to the front of the stage). I never understand why security has to be so rude, sometimes they are very friendly, but I have been to countless shows, and I have encountered more rude security guards than I can count.
After Don Felder’s relatively stripped-down set, Styx came out with bunch of large screens and a great stage-setup that really added to the greatness of the set. Coming out to a flaming version of “The Grand Illusion,” Styx quickly got the whole crowd up upon its feet. All of the members of the band were quite “playful” with the audience, adding to the fun of the show. Lawrence Gowan’s spinning keyboards were quite the hit, and he cruised around the stage singing and performing like he had been in the band from the start. When one sees the chemistry of the band, it is hard to imagine that most of them are not originals. While not quite hitting all of Dennis DeYoung’s notes, Gowan did a fabulous job. A highlight of Styx’s set was definitely Lawrence Gowan joking around about their bus’ recently catching fire – he did a spur of the moment performance of The Doors’ classic “Light My Fire,” which led into the giant crowd-pleaser that is “Come Sail Away.” On a more serious not, many thanks were extended to the Philadelphia firemen who quickly put out the fire and prevented any injuries, so they definitely deserve a big shout out! Styx rounded out their set with an encore performance of “Rockin’ the Paradise” and the brilliance that is “Renegade.” The performance really was excellent, with Tommy Shaw, J.Y. Young, Chuck Panozzo, Todd Sucherman, Lawrence Gowan, and Ricky Phillips all in top form. It still is amazing to hear Shaw do those opening lines of “Renegade.”
Up next was Foreigner, who was closing out the show tonight. I believe it should be noted that every few nights, Foreigner and Styx rotate who plays last – THIS is true co-headlining, to me, when one band closes every night, they are the headliner, regardless of how the show is advertised. Foreigner opened up with the classic “Double Vision,” which immediately got the crowd up on its feet. Kelly Hansen sounds amazingly like Lou Gramm (in fact, these days he sounds MUCH better; I saw Lou Gramm back in February and he sounded horrible). I was a little disappointed not to see Mick Jones out at the start of the job, but Bruce Watson did an awesome job; he seems to have a great personality. Foreigner truly has a great bunch of musicians in the band right now. Thom Gimble has played with Aerosmith and Jeff Pilson has played with the likes of Dio and Dokken. The musicianship that is on stage during a Foreigner show clearly is incredible, despite what any naysayers may say about the lack of original members. After wonderful versions of “Head Games,” “Cold as Ice,” and “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” the legend himself, Mick Jones, took the stage. Immediately the band ripped into a blistering version of “Feels Like the First Time,” where Mick, despite being ill for some time, did not miss a beat. The founder of Foreigner is still going strong! Jones himself took to the mic for the cut from the eponymous first Foreigner album, “Starrider,” which received a surprisingly great reaction from the crowd. It was great to see him and Kelly Hansen trading off on vocals. After about a ten-minute long version of “Juke Box Hero,” which rocked the house, the band walked off the stage in preparation for the encore. They began with “I Want to Know What Love Is,” where the Cherokee High School choir was featured (this is not my town’s High School, but it is very close). The mandatory sing-a-long was a ton of fun. The set was closed with the crowd-pleaser “Hot Blooded,” which had the probably 8-10 thousand people in the crowd singing at the top of their lungs! What a great set from such a classic band. Foreigner belongs on these big stages, and I hope they can keep up the momentum that they have gathered over the past decade and keep themselves in venues this size.
A guitar signed by the members of all 3 bands was the prize for the winner of the raffle that many in the crowd participated in. To get a raffle ticket, one had to buy the Soundtrack of Summer CD that many helpers in the crowd were selling. Proceeds would go to the Philadelphia Firemen’s Widows Fund. I really like to see big name acts taking up important causes, especially after the firemen did such a great job keeping the bands safe. I would recommend this show to any rock fan looking for a great time. Ticket prices are very reasonable when compared to most of the other big summer shows. This is not a tour to miss!