LIVE: Lou Gramm @ Proctors, 12/29/18

Review by Mark Alexander Hudson

Lou Gramm stunned a boisterous crowd at Proctors after a set heavy in Foreigner hits, by announcing his retirement from live performance at the show’s conclusion.

The Rochester native, 68, has had well documented health problems over the last decade or so, and chose this night towards the end of the year in Schenectady to call it a career.

I admit I had my misgivings going in. Those of you who read my review of the current Foreigner’s appearance at SPAC this past summer will know the high regard I hold for their former lead vocalist. To my mind there were
few better hard rock/radio-friendly singers than Gramm throughout the ’70s & ’80s. Equally capable of handling tough rockers and sensitive power ballads, and with superb clarity of diction, Gramm was a huge component of the band’s success, also co-writing many of their hits with founder Mick Jones.

And what a collection of hits! You may not think you know many of their songs, but they have that “oh yeah” factor.

“I Want to Know What Love Is ” – of course.

“Cold as Ice” – sure.

“Feels Like the First Time” – oh yeah.

“Urgent” – oh yeah.

“That Was Yesterday” – oh, that was them? And so on.

Gramm featured all of these songs and more, including naturally, the crunchingly anthemic “Juke Box Hero” – the name of the tour. Is there a better example of gonzo power chords, a relentless groove and an earworm hook all contained in one song? I think perhaps not.

Gramm’s bandmates were adequate without being remarkable, as in they did their job well enough, but couldn’t avoid the feel of the cover band they essentially are.

Brother Ben Gramm on drums was the stand-out player, handling his parts crisply and delivering a drum solo that didn’t outstay its welcome. Guitarist Michael Staertow and keyboardist Jeff Jacobs were fine, but bassist AD Zimmer annoyed throughout with his continual showboating. Dude, Lou is the Juke Box Hero – not you. The line-up was rounded out by Scott Gilman on rhythm guitar and sax, and he did a good job on the iconic Junior Walker (yes, that’s him on the original recording) solo on “Urgent.”

As for Gramm, despite the understandable loss of power and energy that the hard years of ill health have burdened him with, his voice held up pretty well. He went for every note and dug deep to deliver.

The band came out for the encore and teased us with the opening riff to “All Right Now” by Free, perhaps acknowledging the debt that Foreigner’s hard rock side owes to that band and, in particular, its later incarnation as Bad Company. But when Lou emerged, they chugged instead into “Hot Blooded.” The crowd punched the air and happily sang along.

Then came Lou’s bombshell announcement. Did it truly feel like the last time? Time will tell, but few would deny that this rock & roll road warrior deserves a rest.

Long Long Way from Home
Feels Like the First Time
Blue Morning Blue Day
Cold as Ice
That Was Yesterday
I Want to Know What Love Is
Head Games
(drum solo)
Dirty White Boy
Midnight Blue (Lou Gramm)
Double Vision
Juke Box Hero
All Right Now instrumental opening (Free)>Hot Blooded

(All songs originally by Foreigner except where noted.)

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