IF YOU GO
When: 9:30-11 p.m. today.
Where: Coca-Cola Stage.
Admission: Free with Riverbend pin.
Venue website: www.riverbendfestival.com.
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Despite having to sing many of Foreigner's most memorable hits night after night, Kelly Hansen said every performance feels like the first time.
"It's not difficult to feel like it's a new experience with these songs every night because the ambiance is different," said Hansen, who replaced the British/American arena rock's founding frontman, Lou Gramm, in 2005.
"Plus, it's a real challenge to play these songs well every night," he added. "That's something I'm always striving to do: Do these songs better every night."
Tonight, he will perform on as the Coca-Cola Stage as the Riverbend headliner.
Foreigner was founded in 1976 by Gramm and lead guitarist (and last remaining founding member) Mick Jones. The group first tasted success a year later with the release of a self-titled debut that yielded two Top 10s: "Feels Like the First Time" and "Cold as Ice."
For more than a decade, the band's pop-influenced rock yielded a continuous series of anthemic Top 10 hits, including "Hot Blooded" (1978), "Urgent" (1981), "I Want To Know What Love Is" (1984) and "I Don't Want To Live Without You" (1988).
In all, Foreigner has had 16 songs break into Billboard's Top 30 chart. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, the band has sold 37.5 million records, more than Adele, John Mayer and Bryan Adams combined.
Hansen got his start at the mike leading the heavy/glam metal band Hurricane in the mid-'80s. Before that, he was singing pop- and R&B-influenced rock.
Knowing that the crowds he faces with Foreigner grew to love the songs from a different set of vocals, Hansen said he knows the key to keeping them happy is to stay true to the music as they first heard it.
"Some people who get bored or want to show off start going off the rails and doing something completely different," he said. "That's never how we've been.
"For me to come into Foreigner and try to change up the songs so people know it's me is serving me, not the songs."
Despite the need to honor the past, Hansen said the band can't rest on its legacy. As such, the live show is incredibly important, he said, and he tries to give fans what he would want if they swapped places.
"We're not out there phoning it in," he said. "I think fans get that immediately. You can't hide it or fake it or spray-paint it silver; you have to be real."