Through his lifetime in the music industry, former Foreigner frontman Lou Gramm has seen his enormously popular catalog of work enjoyed in myriad of ways.
On AM radio or live in concert. On cassette, through burger commercials or as the hot-blooded inspiration for an Adult Swim cartoon. Even as he prepares to officially retire from touring at the end of this summer, the 66-year-old Gramm still gets a charge out of watching his music connect, no matter the setting.
“It does still excite me,” said Gramm, reached by phone in his native Rochester earlier this month. “I’ve been doing this for more than four decades, and people are still interested in music that’s 40 years old because the songs have stood the test of time. They’ve been discovered and rediscovered by different generations, and I think that’s a triumph for Mick [Jones] and my songwriting.”
“Cold as Ice.” “Blue Morning, Blue Day.” “Feels Like the First Time.” The Foreigner duo of Gramm and guitarist Mick Jones—jointly inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2013—charted their band’s first eight singles on Billboard’s Top 20, making them the first pair not named Lennon and McCartney to achieve such a feat.
Decades later, the songs are still popular enough to be toured by a remade, Jones-led Foreigner lineup, as well as performed separately by the departed Gramm — with occasional orchestral accompaniment. In 2014, he joined the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at Kleinhans Music Hall to give his hits an uplifting backing of strings, brass and bassoons. On April 28, he’ll join fellow arena rock veterans Mickey Thomas of Starship, Terri Nunn of Berlin and Robin McCauley of Survivor to team past hits with extra instrumental accompaniment for “A Night of Symphonic Rock” inside the Seneca Niagara Events Center in Niagara Falls.
The addition of added orchestral arrangement to past Foreigner make-out classics like the swooning “I Want to Know What Love Is” makes for a sensible match. But for Gramm, the compatibility goes back to the same elements that have helped his band’s hits endure both inside and outside its genre boundaries.
“I think it’s the musical style and the writing content,” said Gramm. “I know Mick had a different way of playing chords when we were writing songs, and he had different voicings that sounded fantastic with string sections. All these years later and in these particular [orchestral] situations, it really shines.”
These servings should stave off patient Foreigner fans until this summer, when the band will welcome back original members Ian McDonald, Al Greenwood and Gramm for a few yet-to-be-determined dates to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its smash “Double Vision” album. For Gramm, it will be his first time on stage with any Foreigner lineup since 2003. Foreigner has a date scheduled on July 21 at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center but no word yet on whether Gramm will peform.
But for this weekend, it will be another opportunity for the Gramm-conceived rock classics to cascade against yet another sonic backdrop, still as malleable and memorable as they’ve ever been.
“It’s just a different spin with different instruments, and you either like it or you don’t,” said Gramm. “But for a one-off kind of experiment, it definitely helps these songs in ways you’d never expect.”
Who: “A Night of Symphonic Rock” with Lou Gramm of Foreigner, Mickey Thomas of Starship, Terri Nunn of Berlin, and Robin McCauley of Survivor
When: 8 p.m. April 28
Where: Seneca Niagara Events Center (310 4th St., Niagara Falls)