Foreigner goes acoustic to record a live album
Foreigner founder and lead guitarist Mick Jones says he once thought it would be “very difficult” to adapt the band’s radio mega hits to an acoustic format.
But he and his band found great success stripping back their stadium-rock staples for the 2011 album “The Hits Unplugged,” and they’ll be doing it again as they record a new live album at a special charity event Monday at the Ford Conference and Event Center. Jones says the band originally experimented with acoustic renditions of their best-known songs in private events.
“They went down incredibly well,” he says. “Not only that, but they really lent themselves to acoustic treatment and seemed just as powerful and pleasing to the audience and to us. Since those days we’ve kind of smartened the sound up a bit.”
Monday’s concert, preceded by a strolling dinner, will benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund. Jones says type 1 diabetes research holds personal significance to him, as his father suffered from the disease and two of his tour manager’s daughters have it, as well.
“It’s caused some pain and anguish within several people I know and their families,” he says. “It’s just one of those things that doesn’t get talked about so much. But, unfortunately, it’s the one that is the real killer.”
Jones has long been involved in other charity work outside of this week’s one-off event in Dearborn. Foreigner features a different high school choir at each show, bringing the choir onstage to perform “I Want To Know What Love Is” and making a donation to the school’s music program. (The Mosaic Youth Theatre’s choir will join Foreigner for Monday’s show.) Jones is also involved in the Grammy Foundation’s efforts to promote music education.
“You can only do as much as you can do, basically,” he says. “But I hope that our contribution will make a difference and at least help somebody.”
In addition to the unplugged performances and charity work, Foreigner finds plenty of time for old-fashioned arena rock. The band has been touring with Romeo’s own Kid Rock, and the two acts are wrapping up a run of dates at DTE Energy Music Theatre this weekend. Jones says he met Rock several years ago, but only recently “came to appreciate what a great artist he is.”
“He’s a really talented performer and frontman,” Jones says. “He’s in that classic mold. That guy is super-cool.”
The band is also gearing up for the 40th anniversary of its 1977 eponymous debut, having overcome some major stumbling blocks over the years, including on-and-off tension between Jones and original vocalist Lou Gramm (Kelly Hansen has fronted the group since 2005). Having recently recovered from circulation issues that kept him off stage for a year, Jones says he’s a “happy man” who “never in his wildest dreams” would have expected his band to stick it out for four decades.
Jones chalks the band’s success up to an enduring set of hits that new generations continue to cotton to.
“People that were fans earlier on turn their children on to it, and we’ve sort of regenerated every 10 years or so,” he says. “We’ve been lucky enough to hold on during that time.”
Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.
Foreigner: The Hits Unplugged and Live
8 p.m. Monday
Ford Conference and Event Center
1151 Village Road, Dearborn
6:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday
DTE Energy Music Theatre
7774 Sashabaw, Clarkston