Poor Lou Gramm. The man with one of the best voices in rock, through no fault of his own, has become a shadow of his former self. In 1997, a benign egg-sized tumor was discovered in Gramm's brain. It pushed into his pituitary gland and wrapped itself around his optic nerve. Because of steroids and other drugs the singer took during his recovery, Gramm gained 80 pounds and forgot the words to many Foreigner songs. But he recovered enough to hit the road with the band in the late-Nineties and continued to tour with Foreigner into 2003, playing 71 shows – during which footage for this DVD was shot.
Truth be told, I saw Foreigner play Milwaukee's Summerfest in 1999, and Gramm struggled -- botching lyrics, straining his voice on the high notes and looking pleased with himself for just making it through another song. As a longtime fan, I couldn't help but feel empathy for the guy. Watching and listening to Foreigner on 25/All Access Tonight isn't quite as painful as that summer night five years ago, but it's clear this is not the same band you remember.
In addition to Gramm, guitarist Mick Jones – he and Gramm remain the only original members – plays effortlessly and flawlessly without losing enthusiasm. But the other four band members either look bored or try too hard. Of course, it doesn't help that this 90-minute DVD was shot with one camera, which can only get so many interesting angles during the course of a gig. Spliced in between the concert footage is video of band members checking into a hotel and not being able to find their rooms, uninspired meet-and-greets, media interviews in Mexico, and scenes of life-on-the-bus and backstage banter. Bonus material consists entirely of one live clip: Gramm and Jones performing "I Want to Know What Love Is" in 2002 in Belgium, with backing players and a massive choir.
As things turn out, 25/All Access Tonight might be the last we see of Gramm with Foreigner, as he and Jones have split again (just as they did in 1989). Gramm, now 54(!) and looking more like Joe Cocker or the late Sam Kinison than the svelte young man of yesteryear, continues to tour with the Lou Gramm Band, and Jones has formed what he calls an all-star version of Foreigner, featuring former Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin, songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Marti Frederiksen and drummer Jason Bonham. I'm not sure who will be singing, but it'll be tough live up to Gramm's legacy. It's a shame things had to end this way …
1) Long, Long Way From Home
2) Double Vision
3) Cold As Ice
4) Head Games
5) Fool For You Anyway
6) That Was Yesterday
7) Dirty White Boy
8) Feels Like the First Time
10) Juke Box Hero
11) Hot Blooded
Total Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes