THERE was a time when the rock 'n' roll fraternity enjoyed the anarchy and the middle finger to the establishment and disdained the sit down concerts of their parents; when even the most moderate sounding rock bands enjoyed a swirling mass of swaying fans.
But when Foreigner played at Belfast's Waterfront Hall there were even people wearing their best glad rags and ladies of a certain age with Cashmere overcoats and the latest fashions...
All did not bode well...
Opening the night's proceedings were No Hot Ashes, and as home town heroes they surely deserved a better turn out, but the bar's attraction was obviously more of a draw for those who only knew the hits from the headliners.
Nevertheless the band's 80s songs from NHA still sounded fresh, and with Eamonn's easy banter greeting the personal shouts from those present, songs such as Diane and Summer Rain prompting sing-alongs from those who bothered to see this exciting reformation. Only a lack of a punchy sound detracted from the performance - no fault of the band.
FM are one of those bands who bubbled nicely in the 90s and then faded to the hard rock festival circuit. Kicking off with Tough Love and including songs such as Closer to Heaven and That Girl they produced a set that was mostly enjoyable, if at times insipid - perhaps they will see greater audience turn-out and warm the songs up as the tour progresses.
With the bar tannoy announcing three minutes to Foreigner's appearance drinks were quickly quaffed and the hall finally filled with its sell-out crowd.
A deceptively simple stage-set (take note Journey!) and a subtle and appropriate lightshow the band were quickly into gear, with Double Vision. It had all the hallmarks of a heritage show, a pension show for an act that were only there to pay some bills.
However, such fears were quickly dispelled when front man Kelly Hansen bounded off the stage, crawled along seat backs and reprimanded the person who had the temerity to use his phone when the band were playing.
It was at that crucial moment that momentum shifted: this was not a heritage show; it was a band that were onstage enjoying playing hits to an audience familiar with almost every song.
Those more familiar with the band's back catalogue rather than just the Top 10 hits were clearly pleased when Mick Jones - finally emerging on stage led the way to a stunning version of Star Rider. In the late 70s and 80s many a band wanted to produce Freebird Mk2, and while the structure of Star Rider is roughly the same, it was always a song that excelled as an art piece of rock performance. Even if half of the 'ladies' looked a bit bemused by the guitar solos it was a high point of the gig.
As many of the band are 'a little older' the keyboard solo and drum solo were an opportunity for a breather. While obviously competent and excellent players they were relatively pedestrian and left many heading for a smoke or bar break...
However, when the band kicked off the guitar anthem Juke Box Hero the pace was headlong to the conclusion. Juke Box Hero has always been the aspirational song for budding rock guitarists alongside Blue Oyster Cult's Marshall Plan.
With tweaks and extended sections the song rose above the excellent recorded version and Mick Jones was the epitome of the Juke Box Hero - a highpoint, a rousing song that shows off Foreigner at its best.
Closing the evening with the anthemic ballad I Want To Know What Love Is and a stomping version of Hot Blooded Foreigner proved they are no longer a spent force. New material from the band would have capped off a tremendous evening.
The average age of the audience may have been in the middle part of middle age, and many well into middle class. Is this a sign of people reliving their youth, prompted by easy listening Radio Two? Or is it a sign that with the right band there are many who yearn for that little bit of anarchy and sheer enjoyable release? We hope it is the latter and hope that if Foreigner return there will at least be a section for standing audience members who are still capable of bouncing up and down despite their ages.
Foreigner produced a fantastic performance of hard rock excellence. Take note younger acts!