A legacy of hit songs that are still relevant on classic rock stations is a formidable thing, and that power was on full display Wednesday night, at the Pine Knob Music Theatre when two of the biggest names in classic rock touched down for what may have been the final performance in the Motor City for each of the musical legends.
Foreigner, entrenched in the early weeks of its Historic Farewell Tour and special guest Loverboy, are a long way from putting new music on the charts, or in the former’s case releasing any type of new music at all. But more than 14,000 fans flocked to Pine Knob, on what Foreigner frontman Kelly Hansen called “a surprisingly cool evening,” to soak up the nostalgia of the bands’ classic rock hits. In a matter of fact kind of way, 21 bona fide hits over the course of each of their respective sets mixed with a little in the way of surprises or deep digs into their respective catalogs.
And that was exactly what the faithful who packed into the venue wanted on Wednesday, a large-scale tailgate party filled with songs they knew every word to and that rekindled decades-old memories.
Returning to Pine Knob nearly a year after opening for Deroit’s own Kid Rock, Foreigner did not play the farewell card until the very end of the show, just before the sextet closed its hour-and-50-minute show with “Hot Blooded.” Explaining the demanding nature of the material, Hansen acknowledged that “it’s harder and harder to do these songs the way they deserve to be done” and vowed that, “We want to go out on top, not starting to fall and starting to suck so when you go home you go, ‘Well, that was disappointing.’” Instead, he advised, “Let’s not hang on to old, tattered things because we love them and they are familiar. Let’s enjoy them while they are robust and full and vigorous and love them in memory when they’re gone.”
Foreigner demonstrated again that it’s learned to mitigate those demands, primarily on the 62-year-old Hansen’s voice, with a set that provided necessary breaks while still keeping the show going through its modest 13-song setlist. There were lengthy band member introductions and prolonged keyboard and drum solos as well as extended song arrangements that gave guitarists Bruce Watson and Luis Maldonado room for solos on “Head Games,” “Cold As Ice” and “Dirty White Boy.” With no saxophone player in the band anymore, Maldonado and Bluestein covered those parts on “Urgent,” with the latter taking the mid-song solo on a keytar. Maldonado, the band’s newest member (since 2021), filled in as Foreigner’s chief visual foil in place of usually manic bassist/keyboardist Jeff Pilson, who’s been relegated to a chair by neurological issues. Pilson soldiered on, however, even making light of his situation, even having a crew member sprint him across stage at one point in a wheelchair adorned with lights and a smoking jet packs.
Some of Foreigner’s best musical moments came during a new three-song “acoustic portion,” as Hansen dubbed the three-song mini-set, which gave the group a chance to show off vocal harmonies that aren’t the first thing you notice during the rockers. It also allowed Foreigner to pull out the uptempo “When It Comes to Love” from 2009’s “Can’t Slow Down,” its last studio album and only release to include Hansen, Pilson and Bluestein. Watson, meanwhile, delivered some tasty slide licks during “Girl on the Moon.”
Hansen returned to his usual foray into the crowd during “Juke Box Hero,” mounting a show staple hydraulic riser by the sound board before returning to the stage and finishing the main set with smoke jets and a brief burst of pyrotechnics. “I Want to Know What Love Is” was extending with some soulful vamping, and “Hot Blooded” certainly sent the remaining fans home with the memories that Hansen mentioned during his pre-song discourse.
Loverboy, meanwhile, took an opposite approach during its hour on stage. Following a two-song performance the Clarkston High School Madrigals choir — winner of a Foreigner and Bose-sponsored competition — the Canadian quintet, still boasting four original members, cranked through its 10-hit set with crisp efficiency and minimal patter. Guitarist Paul Dean offered the occasional solo but the focus was fully on the songs, with one 80s anthem after another taking center stage. To say the crowd was “Lovin’ Every Minute of It” is trite, but absolutely true, and the set-closing “Working for the Weekend” rang particularly true in this blue-collar area