Alive & Rockin' (DVD)


Eagle Vision, 2007

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


So, just how long does your waaaaay-past-its-prime arena rock act have to circle the drain before you title a release Alive & Rockin’?

It’s a rhetorical question, but observers could be forgiven for their skepticism when you combine that truly wretched title with a DVD of a nine-song opening-slot European-festival performance by the hanging-on remnants of a three-decades-old group that, let’s be frank, wasn’t all that impressive to begin with.

Just as there must be an explanation for the existence of this DVD, though, there must be an explanation for the existence of this review, and it is this: Alive & Rockin’ is -- be still my heart -- better than one might expect.

It must also be said that Foreigner songwriter/guitarist/producer/copyright holder Mick Jones surely owes Ronnie Montrose a beer for this review. For while I’m typically queasy at the mere mention of the plethora of what are essentially cover bands with one! original member lurking around the fringes of the classic rock scene these days, in recent years Ronnie’s reconstituted Montrose lineup has played the classic tunes with genuine power and authority, and thereby given longtime fans some well-deserved thrills. Jones pulls off a similar feat here using the same technique: hire pros who love the music.

In this case, the veteran lineup Jones has assembled under the Foreigner banner includes Jason Bonham (son of John and occasional Led Zeppelin touring drummer), Jeff Pilson (longtime Dokken bassist), late-era Foreigner recruits Jeff Jacobs (keys) and Tom Gimbel (rhythm guitar & sax), and lead vocalist Kelly Hansen, former frontman for late 80s-early 90s heavy metallers Hurricane. (If you don’t think heavy metal is a small world, consider this; in its day Hurricane was often compared to Dokken and Foreigner, and Hurricane guitarist Doug Aldrich would go on to co-found the melodic hard rock group Burning Rain with vocalist Keith St. John… current frontman for the reconstituted Montrose.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In any revamped classic rock band the biggest challenge is replacing your recognizable lead voice, and here Jones has chosen well. Hansen’s piercing, pleasantly rough-edged vocals are nearly a dead ringer for longtime Foriegner frontman Lou Gramm’s, and he slides right into these songs like he belongs.

The set, delivered in June of last year at the Bang Your Head!!! Festival in Balingen, Germany, is appropriately heavy on the rockers, omitting the band’s forgettable -- though commercially successful -- power-ballad singles “Waiting For A Girl Like You” and “I Want To Know What Love Is” in favor of a sustained barrage of the group’s harder tunes.

“Double Vision” is a solid opener, getting the crowd singing along right away, even if it’s among the most vapid lyrics ever penned by a band renowned for them. “Head Games” follows and takes on a nastier edge than was ever achieved by the synth-dominated studio version. “Dirty White Boy” bounds in next, its lyric goofy as hell, its riff nonetheless undeniable. That is, in fact, the entire secret of this band’s longevity right there -- Mick Jones wrote several of the catchiest hard rock riffs to be found in Foreigner’s 1977-81 heyday.

“Cold As Ice” doesn’t fare as well, its staccato piano melody falling rather flat in this rendition, but “Starrider” is a pleasant surprise, one of the better album cuts from the band’s 1977 self-titled debut, given a strong and faithful reading. “Feels Like The First Time” and “Urgent” get the crowd into it once again, their sturdy hooks getting more than a few heads banging, and the faintly cheesy “Juke Box Hero” turns out to be more fun than I’d have imagined, especially when they segue into “Whole Lotta Love” and actually pull it off, delivering an entirely worthy verse before returning to “Hero.”

You can’t get too excited about Alive & Kickin’ -- it’s really an artifact of a time long passed. But nostalgia has its place, and in that context this DVD isn’t bad, offering solid, professional performances of a set of respectably catchy arena rock tunes that the crowd clearly knows by heart. Fans will definitely enjoy this one.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2007 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Eagle Vision, and is used for informational purposes only.