The latest incarnation of Foreigner, led by guitarist and founding member Mick Jones (third from left), pounded through a set of arena rock classics during their Thursday-night performance at Santa Ynez's Chumash Casino.

Sure, today’s Foreigner may only boast one original member. And yes, if you mention the band to most folks younger than 30, you’ll probably have to endure a painful cover of something by Journey, Styx, or Boston. But that doesn’t mean Foreigner ’08 can’t rock-and Thursday night’s hit parade at the Chumash Casino proved just that.

Sauntering onstage with all the bravado of one-time frontman Lou Gramm, singer Kelly Hansen owned his role from the very start of the evening. Belting his way through “Double Vision,” “Head Games,” and “Cold as Ice” in rapid-fire order, Hansen shook his hips, pumped his mike stand in the air, and even ran offstage and through the at-capacity crowd to the delight of female ticket holders. Swathed in pounds of jewelry, a sheer top, and some of the tightest ladies’ denim I’ve seen of late, the singer (who replaced Gramm back in 2005) undeniably was the driving energetic force behind the night’s performance. But sonically speaking, it was founding member Mick Jones who truly rocked the house.

Though the first half of the night’s set was jam-packed with timeless rock hits (“Dirty White Boy,” “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” “Say You Will”), it was Jones’s spiraling guitar solos on “Starrider” that brought the masses to their feet. From its flute and drum start to its winding, synth-infused build, this psychadelic cut from the band’s debut album worked both to date the tunes and highlight Jones’s ingenious songwriting skills.

From there, it was no holds barred as the audience rushed the stage, jumped onto their chairs, and began rocking like it was 1979. “Urgent” came to life thanks to Tom Gimbel’s impassioned sax solos; “Feels Like the First Time” had the place swaying in unison; and “Jukebox Hero” built to near rock ‘n’ roll ecstasy during the course of its 10-plus minute guitar onslaught. By the set’s close (a one-two encore punch of “I Want to Know What Love Is” and “Hot Blooded”) the energy both onstage and off was still palpable, leaving the heydays of arena rock not missed, but alive and well in the wake of Foreigner.


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