WEBSTER – Supergroup Foreigner is currently in the middle of their first full tour route in over a year.
When band keyboardist Michael Bluestein spoke on the phone recently, Foreigner was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, before a concert there that night. It might not be the first time, but Foreigner isn’t looking to hit the road again as he stops in 71 cities across 42 states coast to coast from June 24 to November 20.
“Lots of time. We got out swaying. We’re just making our way, heading in your direction,” Bluestein said of Foreigner hitting the road again and heading to Indian Ranch in Webster for a show at 7 p.m. August 26.
Indian Ranch will be one of three shows scheduled in Massachusetts, the others being South Shore Music Circus, Cohasset, August 27, and Cape Cod Melody Tent, Hyannis, August 28.
This part of the country is not foreign territory. “I know Worcester for sure,” said Bluestein, who was born in Lowell, raised in Haverhill and North Andover and is a graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston.
He remembers going to the DCU Center when it was Worcester Centrum. Most recently, Foreigner performed at the Hanover Theater and Conservatory for the Performing Arts in Worcester before the pandemic in 2019.
However, “Indian Ranch is new to me,” Bluestein said, but he can’t wait to be there. Foreigner will present the show “The Greatest Hits of Foreigner” at Indian Ranch, so the sentiment among his fans will be mutual.
The song list will speak for itself, possibly including rock and ballad classics such as “Feels Like the First Time”, “I Want to Know What Love Is”, “Waiting for a Girl Like You”, “Juke Box Hero”, “Hot Blood” and “Cold as Ice”.
For Bluestein, these are hits he grew up listening to long before he became an outsider in 2008.
Foreigner had been formed in 1976 in New York by three Britons and three Americans. The British were Mick Jones, lead guitarist (ex-Spooky Tooth), Ian Wallace, guitar and keyboards (ex-King Crimson) and drummer Dennis Elliot (also ex-King Crimson). The Americans were Lou Gramm, vocals (ex-Black Sheep), Al Greenwood, keyboards (ex-Storm) and Ed Gagliardi from Brooklyn, NY, bass.
They had all enjoyed varying degrees of success with previous ventures, but with Foreigner they reached unprecedented heights starting with the self-titled debut album “Foreigner” in 1977. Foreigner is one of the best-selling bands of all. the times, with worldwide sales of over 80 million records.
“In the 70s this music was everywhere. I definitely have memories of hearing these songs,” Bluestein said.
There was a Papa Gino’s in Haverhill that looked like “an old-fashioned restaurant” with a jukebox, he recalls. Bluestein said he remembered being 9 years old listening to Lou Gramm’s voice on that jukebox. “Lou Gramm’s voice was so powerful. I’ve always been a fan.”
It will be about 30 years before Bluestein joins the group and can play “Juke Box Hero”.
First of all, also at the age of 9, Bluestein began to play the piano.
“There was an old upright piano in the house. Mom played records. I had the ability to choose the melodies. She was excited about it. She was an artist herself, so all artistic inclinations she did. saw my brother and I, she would feed, ”Bluestein said.
This led to piano lessons, and later to a place at Berklee College of Music.
Bluestein’s musical journey included an immersion in jazz. “I understood everything at the time. I had fallen into the world of jazz,” he said.
He had studied and played jazz in high school, listening to jazz pianists and composers such as Oscar Peterson, Herbie Hancock and Bill Evans.
Bluestein continued to accompany and record with many jazz singers, including Kitty Margolis, Jacqui Naylor, Kenny Washington and Mary Stallings. He toured with Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes and with Shelby Lynne. He released three CDs, mainly jazz oriented.
But he has also performed with high quality artists from different musical styles such as Boz Scaggs, Anastacia, Enrique Iglesias and Roger Hodgson.
“Being someone who was in different styles was not a big effort for me. I grew up loving rock and pop music,” Bluestein said.
Meanwhile, there would be a number of staff changes over the years in Foreigner, with Mick Jones now the only original member. Besides their studio opening, the band is known for the spirit of their live performances and, despite the years that go by, maintained a busy touring schedule until the pandemic. This has now resumed with concerts booked through 2022 which will take Foreigner to the UK and Europe.
Paul Mirkovich, who is now the musical director of “The Voice”, is a friend of Bluestein’s who played keyboards with Foreigner on what was supposed to be on a temporary basis in 2007.
Bluestein met Mirkovich at a musical convention and Mirkovich told him that Foreigner was looking for a new keyboardist. He helped Bluestein get an audition in early 2008.
Getting on board, Foreigner didn’t make Bluestein feel like an alien, but he knew he had to prove that he belonged to him.
“They were welcoming, but whenever someone is new they want to make sure that you are going to work musically and personally. There is a lot of time to spend time together,” Bluestein said.
“They were welcoming and I felt I could do the keyboarding job, but there is always an interpersonal trial period. There are always adjustments, but I felt comfortable. I had done a lot of doing. I think it helps you build road intelligence on how to behave Be considerate, show up on time, be a team player, contribute to conversations. feel like you know the drill. I think if you did it helps. ”
Mick Jones is now 76 and hasn’t been on the new tour, but “we hear he’ll be out in a week or two,” Bluestein said.
Jones lives in New York City so could perform at one of the Massachusetts concerts since they are nearby. “I can’t tell you for sure,” Bluestein said.
Foreigner is now composed of Jones, solo and rhythm guitars, keyboards, accompaniment and vocals; Bluestein, keyboards and backing vocals; Kelly Hansen, lead voice, percussion; Bruce Watson, rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals; Chris Frazier, drums, percussion; Jeff Pilson, bass, keyboards, backing vocals; and Luis Maldonado, rhythm guitar, bass and backing vocals.
Bluestein is now one of the oldest members of Foreigner. When Jones isn’t performing, none of the other six band members have any connection to the original stranger.
There are a number of Foreigner tribute bands, so Bluestein was asked what makes the real Foreigner different?
“The group is organized and chosen by Mick (Jones),” Bluestein said. “He’s the producer of it all. That in itself makes him authentic. That would be the main difference.”
Likewise, does being a member of Foreigner give a performer leeway when playing hits, or does it have to be grade for grade?
“There’s been some evolution. There’s a lot of fidelity to the original recording with the musicians, you know. I like to think of it as vocals – no two people are alike when you speak, “Bluestein said. “We can’t help but be ourselves – even if you play a song like everyone else plays and sings and grooves, it’s okay. I think that’s a good thing. We’re not automatons or robots.”
The pandemic ended the touring and Bluestein remained in his apartment and studio in downtown Los Angeles, where he now lives.
“I was mostly housebound. Composing and recording. Lots of Netflix too. It was a chance to regroup a bit,” he said.
“We all missed the tours and the performances, but we’re back.”
With the emergence of the Delta variant, however, “We have all taken extra precautions. We are wary of that. We are doing tests to make sure the group and the team stay negative. We are all vaccinated,” Bluestein mentioned. . The local teams who come behind the scenes of the place visited by the foreigner must be vaccinated. The group continues to meet and greet, but they are distant, he said.
It’s a common sense approach, and Foreigner doesn’t seem to want to stop filming in an array of different locations if that helps.
“We will continue to do this until all of this is behind us,” Bluestein said.
What: Foreign; opener Jay Psaros
When: 7 p.m. (doors 5:30 p.m.) August 26
Where: Indian Ranch, 200 Gore Road, Webster
How much: $ 54.50 (general adult admission) and more. www.indianranch.com