It was hot on Sunday afternoon in Paso Robles but not nearly hot enough to keep 3,000 Foreigner fans from filling up the Vina Robles Amphitheatre. Fans filled the lower bowl and the general admission grass area full of optimism even with the sun beating down on them. As I scurried past people racing for the pit area, I heard several groups of people claim that even though it was 95 degrees it could feel a lot hotter. Fans of the late 70’s and early 80’s rock band began showing up around 5 p.m. for a 7 p.m. official start proving their love for the band once again after selling out the venue in 48 hours, Kasey Musgraves currently holds the Vina Robles record at 24 hours.
The show started with a bang and lived out the lifespan of a true 80’s rocker, hard and fast. New frontman Kelly Hansen, who joined the band in 2005, came out wielding his microphone stand like a katana slashing it around as if he were fighting an invisible army. While Hansen is not the original singer, the audience grew up on, he sounded exactly like Lou Gramm as some in the crowd just assumed the band’s lone original member was their frontman. Donning a vest, a dress shirt patterned with multiple abstract designs and the sleeves cut off, a long silk necktie and a salt-and-pepper goatee, Hansen had every man and woman in the front row swooning with nostalgia. A thunderous roar erupted from the crowd when a steel-plated piano was rolled out to center stage with a man that looked like a mix between the Undertaker and Ozzy Osbourne behind it.
Hansen dove into “Cold as Ice” and for the first time in the show, his vocals were hardly necessary as the crowd sang along at the top of their lungs. Feeling the energy from adoring fans, Hansen jumped off the stage and ran through the lower bowl touching every fan that had their hand out on the way up to the soundboard that splits the assigned seats and general admission. Almost symbolically, as if to show that he is here for everyone in every section, Hansen stood on a sound box and hit a note before climbing down and heading back to the stage. The frontman made it back onto the stage, dipped his head back letting his long dark locks flow smoothly back and punctuated the song with a strong ending and his hands outstretched to the heavens.
After a whirlwind opening, the band took a second and addressed the crowd. Foreigner certainly knows their audience at this point in their career and poked fun at several things including the ages of both themselves and those in attendance. When asking the ages of everyone in attendance, Hansen started the bidding at 40 years old asking, “raise your hand if you are in the forties,” and continued older until finally nailing the under 40 generation, which, in all seriousness, might have been me and about 18 other people. As the evening progressed, the temperature dropped and the beauty of the Vina Robles Amphitheater amplified as everyone forgot how hot it was and simply sang into the night air. Hansen’s voice echoed throughout the bowl and out into the oak trees but what was best of all was the lack of phones illuminating the crowd. Those in attendance absorbed the melodies of “Feels Like the First Time” and embraced the unruly vibe of “Dirty White Boy.”
The concert started with a bang but wanted to go out with a message. The band whipped the crowd into a frenzy performing, “Juke Box Hero” and then dialed the mood back down. Hansen began filibustering as the Paso Robles High School advanced choir filled onto risers at center stage. With the choir behind him and 3,000 voices in front of him, Hansen dove into their most commercially successful song in “I Want to Know” for a truly beautiful moment. As the ballad went on, the choir and the crowd took a more prominent role singing the chorus and ended with one of the students strumming for the lead guitarist. Hansen then noted the reason they brought the choir onto the stage was, aside from the beautiful moment and the memories the kids will have for a lifetime, to raise awareness for the arts and how badly they are in need of funding. According to sources, this was the band's idea and they were only helped with the arrangements by Vina Robles showing the importance of the cause.
Foreigner concluded their set with “Hot Blooded” as people made their way for the exits. The concert was perfect for what it was. It really wasn’t a rock concert at all, I mean, it ended before 10 p.m. Not once did I hear someone speak of rebellion, nearly everyone had sleeves on their shirts and were careful not to spill their wine. It was a fantastically self-aware concert that sprinkled in some of the good old days, like the drum solo with water exploding into the air like a Las Vegas fountain, but also kept in mind that most in attendance have turned in their boots for a something a little more ergonomic. It was the perfect evening to kick off the summer concert weather and a fun slate of shows Vina Robles will have coming in the future.