Carnegie Library Music Hall, Munhall, PA (Pittsburgh)
May 24, 2013
The venue was in the huge, turn of the century grand stone and block Carnegie Library built in 1898 by the legendary industrial magnate Andrew Carnegie. It was easy to imagine the symphonies and grand events that took place here. It was truly an opulent venue, so old and preserved. Seats were original thin wooden seats, each with armrests and ornate iron legs and supports. Parking was free, on-street, in a old city neighborhood, twisting up the steep hills and narrow streets in the East end of Pittsburgh.
But tonight, it was all Foreigner!
The Music Hall website claims it holds about 1,000... turnout looked to be around 800 +/- fans of all ages. I was surprised at the number of twenty somethings present... a lot of the fans weren't even born yet when Foreigner originally skyrocketed to fame.
There was both floor seating, and a second floor balcony. My 17 year old son and I were three rows from the stage, left side.
Local Pittsburgh cover band opened for them, playing a full hour of original and cover hits starting at 8 o'clock sharp.
After a brief stage change, Foreigner opened just after 9PM.
They followed the same setlist as posted on-line from earlier dates this year, playing almost every one of the well known hits. They extended a number of songs, much to the delight of the audience.
Opening with Double Vision, Kelly promptly steps onto the floor, then onto a piano sitting off stage... then winds his way and climbs UP into the balcony!! I'm thinking- is this for real??
Kelly constantly bantered with the crowd the entire night, chiming in about our Pittsburgh Pirates... noted how small the crowd was... "its like playing in someone's great room!" he chided. Several more times, he'd climb off stage and walk through the floor audience, shaking or high-fiving every hand that was presented to him. He thanked the audience repeatedly for coming to see them... and you really felt he, and the band, meant it.
Each member performed to perfection, and though the acoustics of such a small theater struggled to clearly convey and separate the powerful sound of this legendary rock band, vocals and instrument solos were pretty clear and crisp overall.
Showmanship was the lesson to be taught here to any aspiring bands of today. Each member had solo or two during the set, and took turns coming up to the edge of the stage, high-fiving and shaking hands of those lucky fans in the front row seats. Smiling from ear to ear, all the gyrations of a by-gone era of performing musicians, even throwing guitar picks to the audience at the close of the show.
It felt like 1979 all over again, and it felt pretty good!
Foreigner put on a performance as if they were playing to a sold-out LA Coliseum, or MSG. I have been a concert goer for over 32 years, and I have seen many of the greats throughout rock (and country) history. I can honestly say, even after my "concert-high" has wound down here the next morning, that I have NEVER felt a group put out so much energy, passion, and look like they TRULY enjoyed playing for such a small group of their loyal fans.
Timing was tight, and though I was being blasted right in front of the left speaker bank, they sounded to me they hit all the solos, accents and passages right on mark.
Mick Jones didn't perform tonight... and there was no mention of his whereabouts/ condition. Rumors circled that he is in ill health.
They closed with a local high school choir onstage, maybe 20-25 kids, decked out in pink t-shirts to sing along with the band on "I Want to Know What Love Is". Earlier, the students were selling raffle tickets for the Grammy Foundation fundraiser. For $20, you got a CD of Foreigner's live performance at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Then, you got a raffle ticket that they drew at the end of the concert for a guitar autographed by each of the band members. I was off by ONE number
It was pretty cool actually, kinda like a "We are the World" kinda moment.
They played until almost 11:00PM.
Okay... truth be told... the "original members" thing... I didn't go to see Foreigner for years because I felt "if it ain't Lou, it ain't Foreigner". I am a purist, and I was disappointed that Mick didn't play... no explanation, but it was definitely an expectation.
But the music of Foreigner is what is living on, and the group on stage gave it the respect it deserves. I never had the chance to see them live back in the day, and last night's show made up for a lot of it, for me. It's as good as it's going to get, fans... so I will take it.
Rock on, Foreigner!!