By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy, Photos by Matt “Rabit” Martinez Red Hare Images
Summer is about over and Halloween is just around the corner. While kids are shopping with their parents for back-to-school supplies and last minute trips to the beach, the adults decided to take down memory lane by heading to Irvine to see rock legends Foreigner and Whitesnake perform. Both of these groups ruled the radio waves with their smoldering rock anthems, scintillating hooks, and big hair. They started in the late 1970s, but really had bigger success during the 1980s; the height of the MTV Era. Matt and I loved listening to them when we were teenagers, so we were excited to cover them on the last night of their gigantic summer tour. Opening up was Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience.
Jason Bonham, son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John, continues to celebrate the legacy his father helped to create during the 70s. Zeppelin was arguably one of the best rock ‘n’ roll bands ever forged. As soon as I heard the first notes from “The Immigrant Song,” I was in rock ‘n’ roll Heaven. Jason was bombastic when his sticks banged and clanged. Featured in the group was OC native frontman James Dylan, who was on point with Robert Plant’s words; a great singing style. Their lead guitarist, a Japanese resident whose name I did not catch, was electrifying and exhilarating the entire time. From “Good Times, Bad Times” to “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Black Dog,” “Rock and Roll,” and “Whole Lotta Love,” Jason gave Irvine a taste of the Zeppelin treatment. After hearing the euphoria of “Stairway to Heaven,” the fans felt blessed. It is the closest I will ever get to see Led Zeppelin, and it was wonderful.
Full Jason Bonham’s Led Zepplin Experience slide show below:
“Bad Boys” echoed throughout the Five Points Amphitheater, and that meant Whitesnake was back in Orange County. The love child of Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Famer David Coverdale was in full swing. Coverdale can still hit those high notes with gusto. He may be not as agile as he used to be, but he still had a step or two to show off. Following their performance of “Slow ‘an Easy,” there was a massive guitar duel by Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra, both of whom showcased their righteous riffs and it was a beautiful site to see. Right in the middle of “Crying in the Rain,” Tommy Aldridge becomes a mad scientist on the drums. The man is in his 60s and he is playing like a teenager, going as far as throwing his sticks into the crowd and continued his solo with just his hands. That is nuts! Whitesnake sizzled the whole evening with their classic 80s hits like “Is This Love,” “Slide It In,” “Here I Go Again,” and “Still of the Night.” They will be putting out new album next year entitled Flesh & Blood, so I am looking forward to it.
Full Whitesnake slide show below:
The evening of 1980s rock ‘n’ roll excitement continued with the appearance of Foreigner. Kicking things off with “Long, Long Way From Home,” I was impressed by the charismatic energy of vocalist Kelly Hansen. He hit those notes and fired up the crowd as if he were Foreigner vocal legend Lou Gramm. Thom Gimbel did fantastic job going back and forth between playing saxophone and rhythm guitar, while Bruce Watson wailed out the classic guitar solos that made Foreigner’s tunes iconic. Wailing on the bass like a true champion was Jeff Pilson, who is also known for his time in Dokken and Dio. From “Double Vision” to “Head Games,” “Cold As Ice,” “Waiting For a Girl Like You,” and “Dirty White Boy,” I could sense the older fans were reliving to good old days of their young lives.
Right after “Dirty White Boy,” Hansen told the fans that it did not feel like Foreigner without its founder and lead guitarist, Mick Jones. Jones steps out, guitar in hand, and starts the riff from the first true Foreigner classic, “Feels Like the First Time.” For the rest of the night, Jones crooned the crowd with his righteous guitar chops that made him a legend, which included the song “Urgent.” The night got even better when “Juke Box Hero” hit the evening air, and Hansen rode high on a glowing platform in the VIP section. The fans did not want the night to end, so they obliged with their #1 single, “I Want to Know What Love Is,” where the Rosewood Avenue Elementary School Choir joined in. That was a beautiful site to see, for those kids did a fine job. The show ended on a high note with the infectious “Hot Blooded,” where Jason Bonham sat behind the drums and killed it.
Full Foreigner slide show below:
It was like I stepped into a time machine and went back to the 1980s, ready to rock out with my hair out. Whitesnake was awesome in the still of the night, and seeing Foreigner for the first time was excellent. It would have been cool if Lou Gramm made an appearance, but Hansen gave Irvine a show they will never forget, nor will Matt and I. To Foreigner, Whitesnake, and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, I salute you. Horns up!!!