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“The Voice of Foreigner!” Lou Gramm LIVE! at the Ocean City Music Pier

By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

The keyboardist hits a switch on his keyboard and prerecorded music starts to flow, getting the crowd in the mood for tonight’s August 5, 2019 show at the Ocean City Music Pier in Ocean City NJ. Headlining this evening’s concert is none other than Lou Gramm, original lead singer of Foreigner, along with the progressive rock group Asia featuring John Payne.

The musicians of Asia — guitarists Jeffrey Kollman and Moni Scaria, keyboardist Jamie Hosmer, drummer Johnny Fedevich, and vocalist Kelly Vohnn — takes the stage inside the beautiful Ocean City Music Pier auditorium along with their leader, British singer and bassist, John Payne, a long-time member the ’80s supergroup, Asia.

Launching into the straight-ahead rocker, “Go,” Payne’s thumping bass is immediately felt by audience members right in their chests. As Payne sings, “My direction is changing, which way/Which way can I go?” Kollman and Scaria’s guitars wail and the crowd stands and bops to the music.

“Good evening. How are we tonight?” asks Payne in his British accent as he and the band segue into Asia’s 1982 Top 20 hit, “Only Time Will Tell.”

The iconic synthesizer keyboard fanfare intro gets fans in the crowd clapping along on this catchy power ballad. Tight vocal harmonies ring out on the “Now, sure as the sun will cross the sky/The lie is over” interlude, and guitars duel downstage before ending in sweet harmonics.

Payne introduces the group’s next number stating, “This is from the Asia recording, Aqua, from 1991.” Here, he performs “Who Will Stop the Rain,” an album cut which originally featured his lead vocal. On this infectious rocker, audience members bob their heads to the syncopated melodic rhythm. Moni Scaria and Jeffrey Kollman each take a screaming guitar solo before Payne plays an electrifying bass solo.

Following large applause, Payne announces, “You’ll hear a mix of songs tonight,” explaining, “We convinced Lou Gramm to join us so you’ll hear some hits from Foreigner and Asia. Are you ready?”

At this point, he and Asia perform the powerful rocker, “Wildest Dreams.” The Jersey crowd cheers when Payne changes the original lyric, “From Washington across to California,” to “From Washington across to Ocean City.” Fancy guitar fingering elicits cheers from the crowd and drummer Johnny Fedevich plays an impressive drum solo at the end.

The audience hoots and hollers and Payne introduces the crowd to each member of the band — except for drummer Fedevich. When it’s pointed out that he’s forgotten someone, he jokes, “Why? He’s the drummer,” before acknowledging, “He’s going to work hard on this next one.”

Payne’s voice cries out rough and gravelly on “Time Again,” a progressive rock symphony with jazz overtones that features energetic drumming by Fedevich, dueling guitar solos, and powerful vocals by Payne. The audience cheers and Payne jokes, “Oh, I forgot — Johnny Fedevich is one of the hardest-working drummers,” before announcing, “On this next song, you’re all welcome to stand and jiggle about.”

Audience members rise as Payne sings the pop-infused “Here Comes the Feeling.”

Heads bop to the beat as the music swirls and whirls around the audience. Tight vocal harmonies on the catchy “Here comes the feeling/Here comes the same old feeling” chorus — along with Jamie Hosmer’s cascading keyboard — bring the audience to cheers.

Still on their feet, members of the crowd clap overhead to the hard-driving rock beat of “Sole Survivor.” Syncopated guitars fill, and Payne has the crowd echo sing with him on the “I’ll be the soul survivor/Soul-oul-oul survivor” coda. Before ending with a power chord, Payne comments, “Marvelous!”

Payne thanks the Jersey audience stating, “Without you, there wouldn’t be us.” Then, he asks the crowd to “Please stand for the ‘Asia national anthem.’” Here, he and the band launch into the group’s final number for the evening, Asia’s Top 5 single from 1985, “Heat of the Moment.”

Fans play air guitar on their favorite parts of this power pop hit which features a unique meter, and they happily join in singing on the “It was the heat of the moment” chorus. Guitars wail and Payne encourages everyone to sing even louder before the crowd concludes with enthusiastic cheers and applause.

Still on their feet, Payne has the audience call out “Lou!” as he introduces tonight’s headliner, “Mr. Lou Gramm.”

Lights flash as Gramm’s rich, full voice fills the auditorium on Foreigner’s 1977 debut single, “Feels Like the First Time,” accompanied by John Payne and the musicians of Asia.

As audience members sing along on the ubiquitous “Feels like the first time/Feels like the very first time” chorus, fists pump and hands clap overhead. Colored lights dance to a wailing guitar solo before Gramm sings the ending to enthusiastic cheers, whistles, and a steady drone of “Lou!”

With the crowd still standing and clapping, Gramm launches into a song he composed for Foreigner — the group’s 1977 Top 10 hit, “Cold as Ice.”

His voice powerful and resonant, he sings, “You’re as cold as ice/You’re willing to sacrifice our love.” Following an electrifying guitar solo and a swirling and funky keyboard solo, Gramm finishes the song to avid cheers.

Taking a moment to greet the crowd, Gramm exclaims, “Thank you! How are you guys feeling tonight?” before acknowledging, “We’re gonna play some things you thought we weren’t going to play tonight, but will.”

Seguing into another song he wrote — Foreigner’s 1978 gold record, “Double Vision” — heads bop to the rhythm as Gramm sings, “Fill my eyes with that double vision/No disguise for that double vision.” Lights flash in time to the driving beat and the audience moves to this infectious tune which features soaring guitars and a John Payne bass run on the coda.

The crowd whistles and cheers and Gramm says, “In 1984, this song was #1 around the world — it’s our only #1 song.” Continuing, “It’s a song that talks about love,” Gramm reveals, “When we used to play it in stadiums around the globe, we’d have a full gospel choir with robes on for it, but not tonight. Tonight, we’re going to ask you to be our choir. There’s a lot of soul here tonight, so just sing it out.”

Here, Gramm and Co. perform the Foreigner masterpiece, “I Want to Know What Love Is.” His voice sounding soulful and compelling, Gramm holds his mic out for the crowd as they joyously sing, “I want to know what love is/I want you to show me.”

At one point during the song, Gramm exclaims, “It’s just like church!” before the ending brings cheers, whistles, applause, and the crowd chanting, “Lou! Lou! Lou!” as Gramm responds, “You guys are great — thank you for helping us out.”

Announcing, “In 1987, I recorded my first solo album, and this was a #1 song from it,” Gramm shakes his tambourine as he and the band launch into “Midnight Blue.”

Audience members clap overhead to the beat and four-part background vocals support Gramm’s lead as lights flash.

Guitar and bass start the funky intro to Foreigner’s 1981 Top 10 hit, “Urgent.” Power chords ring out as Gramm sings the “You say it’s urgent/So urgent” chorus before Jeffrey Kollman plays a fast and furious guitar solo and Gramm keeps the rhythm going on cowbell.

The audience hoots and hollers and Gramm responds by declaring, “I’m going to give you a little blood right now!”

The iconic guitar intro of another song which Gramm wrote for Foreigner — the group’s 1978 Top Ten hit, “Hot Blooded” — cries out before the crowd dances and sings along on the “I’m hot blooded/I’m hot blooded” chorus. Kollman’s guitar solo screams as lights glow magenta, setting the audience on fire.

At the conclusion, the crowd whistles, cheers, and continues their cry of “Lou! Lou! Lou!” at which point Gramm exclaims, “Ocean City — you guys rock!”

Gramm and Co. exit the stage, leaving the crowd chanting for their return.

The musicians make their way back onto the stage for their first encore where Gramm announces, “I’ve never played with a band like this before.” Lights flash on the audience as Gramm performs another song he composed for Foreigner, “Dirty White Boy.”

The driving beat gets the audience going on this ’80s rocker which features a Chuck Berry-like “Johnny B. Goode” guitar solo and a breathtaking crescendo at the end.

The audience cheers and the group segues into its second encore, “Jukebox Hero,” yet another Gramm-composed hit for Foreigner. Gramm’s falsetto voice impresses the crowd on this hard-rockin’ number which boasts wailing guitars and a driving beat.

Audience members happily rock out on the “He’s a juke box hero/Got stars in his eyes” refrain as they point in rhythm while dancing to the beat.

Still on their feet since Gramm’s first number, the audience explodes with applause and cheers and Lou responds, “Thanks, Ocean City! We had a great time and hope you enjoyed yourself,” before taking a bow with Payne and the band and wishing everyone “a safe trip home.”

As audience members make their way out of the auditorium, we get an opportunity to chat with John Payne who says about tonight’s crowd, “They were absolutely lovely.”

When asked about how he enjoys performing Foreigner material with Lou Gramm, Payne declares, “They’re such great songs to play! They have some iconic bass lines — you can’t change them at all. For example, on ‘I Want to Know What Love Is,’ I get to use my fretless bass, which is so much fun to play.”

Continuing, “Lou’s really written some amazing songs — we have a lot of fun with them,” Payne concludes by stating, “It’s a cool thing, so we just hope people will keep coming to see us.”

We also get chance to chat with Lou Gramm himself who says, “I loved it tonight — the audience was awesome,” before declaring, “They pushed us to the very edge, and I just loved it!”

In addition, we chat with several members of the audience who share their opinions of tonight’s performance with us.

Comments Tom from Seaville, “This was one outstanding show! I’ve been a huge Foreigner fan ever since when I was a kid. In fact, my first 8-track tape was Foreigner’s Head Games album,” before adding, “ It was so great hearing Lou Gramm sing all those hits again.”

Andrea from Wilmington, DE remarks, “Lou Gramm sounded great, and he performs such great songs,” before asking, “Who doesn’t like Foreigner?” and answering, “Even my 20-year-old likes Foreigner!”

Rosemary from Tinton Falls recalls, “This is my sixth time seeing Lou Gramm. He’s an awesome man — I just love him!” Continuing, “Last year, I saw the show where Foreigner and Lou Gramm performed together, and I’m going to see it again this year,” Rosemary points out, “It’s coming to Atlantic City in October, so people shouldn’t miss it.”

Michael from Fairfax, VA acknowledges, “We traveled four hours to see this concert. We’ve been fans ever since the beginning,” before noting, “Lou Gramm has one of the most iconic voices in rock history — I refuse to see Foreigner without him! His voice is legendary. I’m so glad I got to see him tonight.”

K.O. from Fairfax, VA comments, “I never thought I’d ever get to see Lou Gramm! He has a great voice, and his range is amazing. He still sounds the same as he did on Foreigner’s recordings, plus his performance was so heartfelt. I feel very fortunate to have been able to see him this evening.”

Ann from Scranton, PA acknowledges, “This is my first time seeing Lou Gramm. I’ve seen Foreigner, but this concert just blew Foreigner out of the water,” before concluding, “Lou Gramm is the real thing — he’s got ‘it’!”

Paul from Scranton, PA agrees adding, “This show was incredible — we loved it! The band was great, every song was a hit, and this is a great place to see a concert — every seat is good.”

Continuing, “Lou Gramm has one of the greatest voices in rock music — his vocals have so much depth,” Paul concludes by exclaiming, “He is the voice of Foreigner!”

To learn more about Lou Gramm, please go to lou.gramm.music. To find out more about Asia featuring John Payne, click on johnpayneasia.com. For information on future concerts at Ocean City Music Pier — including recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, The Zombies, on August 19 and Walter Trout on August 20 — please go to ocnj.us/summerconcerts.

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