Alpharetta, Ga. -- On his 1980 “Hawks and Doves” album Neil Young sang, “Live music is better. Bumper stickers should be issued.” And so it was last Saturday night, May 24, at Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre at Encore Park in Alpharetta. For four straight hours, former Eagles band member Don Felder, Foreigner and Styx rocked the excitable crowd on a clear, breezy and beautiful night.
Felder’s set included the classics, “Those Shoes,” “Seven Bridges Row” (which he said the Eagles sang as a backstage warm-up song) and a version of “Hotel California” in which he was joined by a double-necked guitar and Styx lead man Tommy Shaw. Good old songs coupled with good old friends made for a memorable rendition on that dark desert highway.
When the roadies took the stage to prepare for Foreigner, the seats were far from empty. The Brits soon blasted on the stage with an absolutely terrific set of music. Accompanied by strobe lights, fog and a laser show that continued to surprise, they sounded as good as ever. From their first album, (one that I had on eight track and listened to in my Chevy Vega) Mick Jones offered “Starrider” in tribute to the band’s original bass player Rick Wills. During one song, Foreigner’s lead singer took a jaunt through the audience but never down-shifted when back on stage through a set that featured “Cold as Ice,” “Hot Blooded,” “Urgent” and “Jukebox Hero,” “I’ve Been Waiting for a Girl Like You” and “I Want to Know What Love is” which featured a Gainesville high school chorus.
Styx lit up the crowd for the final set that brought Alabama native, Tommy Shaw, back home to the South. From “Blue Collar Man,” “The Grand Illusion” and “Lady” they covered some classics and introduced to many the title track from their first album, “Crystal Ball.” Shaw first reluctantly played it for his friends in a bowling alley, but thankfully gave it a shot. Indeed, there is a superstar in all of us, as they also sang. Their video and light show was, as last year, a lot of fun to see. An encore of “Renegade” topped off a great night for three generations of fans.
I leaned forward at one point during the Foreigner set and said to the ten year old sitting in front me, “your mother remembers the words to this one.” His mom turned around and answered for her son, “He knows the words to all of these songs.” And so he did. My boys did, too.
Lead singers drenched in sweat from leaps and jumps, ripping lead guitars, spinning keyboards and drums to drive the whole machine, lights and video that made it all bigger than life, and a crowd mostly on its feet singing lead vocals for the cultural kick-off to summer. What a night. Live music is indeed better; contact me for a bumper sticker. It’s urgent.