On Tuesday June 19, 2018 the legendary and iconic band Foreigner, along with special guests Whitesnake and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, rocked the St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater in Syracuse, NY on a beautiful summer night at the lake complete with a breathtaking and resplendent sunset that seemed to set the tone for an amazing night of tremendous top notch music and production.
Kicking off the night at around 7:15 was Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience (JBLZE). Jason Bonham has pulled no punches putting this band together that pays tribute to his legendary father and the timeless Led Zeppelin. Newest to this impressive and talented lineup is Jimmy Sakurai on guitar. “Mr.Jimmy’s” stage presence, appearance and impressive guitar skills would lead the audience to think 1977 Jimmy Page has come back to tour with Bonzo’s sons band. JBLZE were as powerful and precise as a band could be playing Zep’s classics such as their opener, “Immigrant Song”, followed by “Good Times Bad Times” and “The Ocean”. JBLZE stunned the crowd with a mesmerizing 45 minute, 9 song set list that concluded with a crescendo to “Stairway to Heaven”. JBLZE members are Jason Bonham on drums, of course, along with James Dylan on lead vocals, Dorian Heartsong on bass guitar and Sakurai on guitars.
Whitesnake, formed by David Coverdale in 1978, grew to critical acclaim in the 1980’s and culminated in 1987 with the success of their self titled album that included two major U.S. hits reaching number one and two, “Here I Go Again” and “Is This Love”. Coverdale has always procured the best of the best when it comes to his bands musicians, and this line up is no different. Kicking off just before 8:30, Whitesnake exploded onto the stage with a powerful force and massive sound and production with their opening numbers “Bad Boys”, “Gimme All Your Love”, and “Love Aint No Stranger”.
Coverdale whose vocals remain strong after 40 years of rock and roll, continued to captivate the audience with his smooth charisma, stage presence and persona that define him as a true rock legend after all these years. Flanked on either side of him, but all the while moving around in an almost acrobatic guitar circus frenzy are guitarists Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra. The guitar work of these two is almost indescribable. They are true masters of their art with the speed and chops, along with smooth melodies and amazing fills and licks. When these two go head to head trading licks, it is as impressive and awe inspiring as can be.
Not to be overshadowed by any means, Michael Devin on bass guitar may not be as flashy on bass, or somersault over his bandmates, but he has been a solid, amazing and powerful piece to the foundation of this band since 2010. To hear him and the astoundingly impressive drummer Tommy Aldridge lock in on the brawny thunderous back end is as good as it gets. Aldridge who is a legend in his own right has been with Whitesnake since 1987. Aldridge has been a major influence for generations of rock drummers having played with Black Oak Arkansas, Pat Travers, Ozzy, Thin Lizzy and many more. To witness Tommy Aldridge behind the kit is simply mesmerizing and jaw dropping. For someone who has been beating on drum kits for over 45 years, sometimes with sticks, sometimes with his bare fists, he makes it look effortless while keeping up the intensity and speed that would be difficult for most drummers half his age. Whitesnake played just about an hour long set list of 11 songs including “Slow and Easy”, “Is This Love”, “Here I Go Again” and closing their set with “Still of the Night”.
Many of the thousands fans who turned out on this beautiful summer night to see these three amazing bands perform had heard rumors after Live Nation announced a few days before the show that the original voice of Foreigner, iconic legend Lou Gramm may make a cameo appearance at the venue to perform on a few select Foreigner songs. Unfortunately, Gramm did not appear and released a statement the following day that he was “devastated that a medical issue prevented me from appearing yesterday in Syracuse”. Despite some disappointed fans hoping to see Mick and Lou perform again in Syracuse, Foreigner came out and delivered in true Foreigner style with power, grit, poise and sincerity.
Foreigner, now heading into their 41st year coming off the success of last years 40th anniversary tour, show absolutely no signs of slowing down or letting up. They continue to deliver the music with passion and energy like it’s their very first time. Foreigner, led by original founding member, song writer and guitarist Mick Jones, also has a powerhouse lineup of extremely talented musicians that have had Mick’s stamp of approval for several years now. Kelly Hansen on lead vocals commands the audience wherever Foreigner perform. His charismatic energy level and stage presence entertains the crowd visually night after night as he interacts with the crowd with a deep connection that Foreigner fans have come to love. He is a true showman with respect for Foreigners music and has the pipes and vocal range to do all of Foreigners catalog of hits flawlessly. The rest of Foreigners current line up consists of veteran rock legends who have been involved with Foreigner for a good part of the last decade or longer, including rock icons Jeff Pilson on bass guitar (2004), Multi instrumentalist, Thom Gimbal on guitars, sax, flute (1992), Keyboardist extraordinaire Michael Bluestein (2008), Bruce Watson on rhythm and lead guitars (2011) and finally the unbelievable drummer behind the kit, Chris Frazier (2012). Each one of these renowned musicians perform exemplary night after night bringing the music of Foreigner alive.
Foreigner kicked off their twelve song, nearly ninety minute blistering set around 9:45 pm with “Long, Long Way From Home”, “Double Vision”, and “Head Games”. By the time Hansen had uttered the lyrics “It was a Monday, a day like any other day”, the crowd was on their feet. Foreigner continued throughout their performance bringing the hits one after another while the crowd sang along and the band entertained in true rock and roll fashion. At one point during the performance of “Juke Box Hero”, Hansen was perched high above the crowd near the sound board on platform as he interacted with the crowd below. Foreigner pulled out all the stops with their dazzling light show, complete with fireworks, lasers and flames that shot high into the clear night sky. During another magical moment, Jones talked about starting this band all those years ago, when feeling mystical beginning this ethereal journey as he transitioned into the 1977 song, “Starrider”. Foreigner performed two encores including “I Want to Know What Love Is” when they were accompanied by the Phoenix Firebird Choir from Phoenix, NY.
Despite the fact that Lou Gramm did not make it out for the show, I’m certain most of the estimated 8000 fans in attendance were very happy and satisfied with the performances from all acts on this, the third stop on this leg of the summers “Juke Box Heroes” tour.
JBLZE SETLIST: Immigrant Song, Good Times, Bad Times, The Ocean, Over The Hills and Far Away, Whole Lotta Love, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Misty Mountain Top, Rock and Roll, Stairway to Heaven
WHITESNAKE SETLIST: Bad Boys, Gimme All Your Love, Love Aint No Stranger, Slow and Easy, Guitar Solos, Cryin’ In the Rain, Drum Solo, Is This Love, Slide It In, Here I Go Again, Still of the Night.
FOREIGNER SETLIST: Long, Long Way, Double Vision, Head Games, Cold as Ice, Waiting For a Girl Like You, Dirty White Boy, Feels Like the First Time, Urgent, Starrider, Jukebox Hero, (Encore) I Want to Know What Love Is, (Encore) Hot Blooded.