Foreigner has been a group in flux for nearly a year. Last August, Mick Jones, the group's co-founder and last original member, had to stop performing in the middle of a tour with Journey because of serious, but unspecified, health issues.
Foreigner soldiered on for the rest of the tour and is back out on the road this year, sometimes with Jones and sometimes not.
Jones never knows from day to day whether he will be able to join the group for a particular date, according to Foreigner lead singer Kelly Hansen. His participation in the group's Saturday, June 15, appearance at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City had not been decided at press time.
"He is not at every performance," Hansen says. "He's recovering from medical issues. The fact that he's coming back and playing with us at all says a lot about his fortitude and his desire."
Even without Jones –– who with former lead singer Lou Gramm was scheduled to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame at a June 13 event in New York –– Foreigner can draw from its deep setlist of adult-contemporary radio staples.
The hits include "I Want To Know What Love Is," "Juke Box Hero," "Urgent," "Hot Blooded" and "Cold as Ice." Foreigner has sold about 75 million albums over its 37-year span.
Hansen, who joined the group in 2005, talks about putting his own stamp on Foreigner's deep catalog and why he thinks the group has endured.
Q: What's the Foreigner live experience like?
A: People will hear everything they expect to hear from he band. Invariably, I get the comment, "I didn't know you did that one, or I forgot you did that one."
We're a very interactive kind of band. I like to play with the audience, not to them. That's all a part of the process, all part of the fun for me.
Q: When Mick isn't with the band, is his presence still felt on stage?
A: We're happy whenever he can join us. He's coming to more and more shows, that's a great thing –– it's something he really wants to do. The band is still his and still under his control, and we're still following his standards, so sometimes when he's not there, he's there.
We have longtime members that have been with us for 20 years, and I'm coming up on 10 years with the band. I think that speaks for itself.
Q: As the vocalist filling original lead singer Lou Gramm's considerable shoes, how do you approach Foreigner's catalog?
A: I'm just trying to be me –– I'm not trying to re-create anything. I feel very strongly if you're going to record a song on a record and it's going to become popular on the radio, you should perform the song that way live. That's what makes a great song –– that melody is what makes a song great.
I like to follow the melodies, although I'm doing it as me and my way. Mick and I talked about it in the beginning. That's how I've always done it in my previous experiences –– just being true to the song and giving the song justice and still being yourself. That's what it's all about.
Q: How has your voice changed from when you were in the hard-rock band Hurricane back in the '90s?
A: I don't think I would have been the right guy to be this band 20 or 25 years ago. Now my voice has gotten to a place where it really fits this band.
I used to (sing) very clean, and I used to sing really, really hard. I don't sing as hard now, and my voice has thickened up some through use and somewhat through age. I think I'm better at using my voice now, and since the Hurricane era, I've learned to emote better –– learned how to connect my feelings to my performance.
Q: Foreigner has gone through multiple lineup changes, including Gramm's second departure in 2002. Why do you think it's survived so many twists and turns?
A: I think it has to do with the great songs, and Mick is a very determined guy, and this band has been his life's work. I think the songs are really what transcend time and space. If he put a terrible band back together, it wouldn't be doing well. If the songs were terrible, it wouldn't be doing well. There have to be many things that have to happen at the same time for something like this to work.
WHEN: 9 p.m. Saturday, June 15
WHERE: The Grand, Golden Nugget, Atlantic City
HOW MUCH: Tickets, priced at $55, $70 and $85, are available at the Golden Nugget box office, Ticketmaster or PressofAtlanticCity.com/Tickets
WEB SITE: ForeignerOnline.com