(SEDALIA, Mo., digitalBURG.com) - Night two at the Pepsi Grandstand contained quite a different crowd from the first night. The crowd for Starship with Mickey Thomas and Foreigner was made up of middle-aged men and women, with silver showing in their hair.
There were still plenty of cowboy hats and rugged boots to be found, but the audience was predominately men with polo shirts and shorts or button-downs tucked into jeans, and women wearing blouses and capri pants.
There was rain throughout the day and I expected the track area to be a swamp. As I made my way down, there was a distinct scent to the air. I couldn’t tell if it was manure or something else, but later found out it was the smell of wood shavings the State Fair grounds crew laid on top of the mud to make it less messy.
Starship, formed by Mickey Thomas after Jefferson Starship disbanded in the 1990s, opened the evening with the intro to one of their famous hits, “White Rabbit.” My attention automatically snapped to the stage because the band brought so much energy. I clearly didn’t have proper expectations; I figured it would be dull because the band is from my parents’ generation. Although the weather was a clear distraction, the rain subsided and the band was surprisingly good.
“I’m glad we were able to play, the sky looked kind of weird,” said Phil Bennett, keyboard player and background vocalist for Starship. “We were able to play, kind of short, so we played the hits and people really appreciated it.”
The band closed their set with an extended version of “We Built This City” and the crowd was on their feet clapping, cheering and singing along.
Between 10 and 15 roadies cleared the stage and set up for Foreigner. Fans were still trickling in and taking their seats both on the track and in the grandstand area. I saw more polos and button downs, and more cleavage of middle-aged women than I should have, but as the evening went on the beer vendors sold tray after tray of beverages to those in attendance. A couple giant beach balls began bouncing around the crowd.
As the opening chords of “Double Vision” sounded throughout the Pepsi Grandstand, the crowd roared as they jumped to their feet. The members of Foreigner were full of antics onstage throughout their set, which might as well have been a live showing of their “Greatest Hits” album. There was a lot of hair flips and hip swaying as Foreigner played for the crowd, which responded in kind.
The grandstand echoed as fans of all ages sang along to the myriad of popular hits. Singer Kelly Hansen, who’s been with Foreigner since 2005, prodded the crowd along by asking questions such as, “How many wild crazy women are here tonight?” before going into the hit “Dirty White Boy.”
The antics got a bit more provocative throughout the night, such as when bass player Jeff Pilson hip-thrusted his bass between the two big beach balls.
Foreigner proved that their music truly transcends generations as they kept the crowd fired up throughout the night. While the crowd was mostly people my parents’ age, I did spot some teens donning Foreigner T-shirts.
Toward the end of their set, keyboardist and synthesizer player Michael Bluestein played a lengthy solo followed by a drum solo that flowed right into “Juke Box Hero.” As the song progressed, the band went into a jam session for several minutes before finishing the song. Hansen thanked the crowd and walked off stage.
The crowd roared as the band waved and walked off stage. Being the State Fair, I wasn’t sure if they would do an encore or not, despite the fact a handful of songs I had expected hadn’t been played yet. A few guitar riffs sounded through the speaker system and the crowd got even louder. The band walked back out and just brought the house down.
For the second song, Hansen enticed the crowd to put their arms around each other and brought the Green Ridge choir to the stage for “I Want to Know What Love Is.” Foreigner is part of the Grammy Foundation, which donates money to schools to fund their music programs. Those in attendance had the opportunity to purchase two Foreigner CDs and a raffle ticket to win a Les Paul guitar autographed by the band. Proceeds from the raffle went directly to the Grammy Foundation. Hansen, at one point, stood in the middle of the choir as the entire grandstand sang along.
The band finished the night with “Hot Blooded” and the crowd roared one last time as the band met at the front of the stage to take a bow.
I was really impressed with the show. Both bands displayed an energy and appreciation for the crowd. They all seemed to be enjoying themselves and really prodded the crowd to get into the performance. Based on the loudness of the crowd, I’d say it was reciprocal.
“Foreigner is one of my mother’s favorite bands and I grew up listening to them because of her,” said Emily Haines, Miss Marion County 2012 who competed in the Missouri State Fair Queen Pageant. “It was pretty awesome to see a band from a different era perform. It was completely different than any concert I had been to before.”
View Andrew Mather’s extended gallery of the Foreigner concert here.