Lou Gramm performs live at Maryland Live! in Hanover, Maryland on August 30, 2013
HANOVER, M.D. – Fifteen years ago, Lou Gramm thought his career, or possibly his life, was over. A brain tumor diagnosis dealt a crushing blow to the lead singer of one of the most successful rock bands in history.
In the years that followed, many would write Gramm off as either retired or sidelined.
But just the opposite has happened.
After being cured of the tumor in the late ’90s, he’s been gaining ground physically and vocally each year, culminating in 2013 with one of his most aggressive tour schedules ever and an induction into the prestigious Songwriters’ Hall of Fame alongside his Foreigner bandmate Mick Jones.
And at Maryland’s newest casino, Gramm arrived ready to show off his newly found stamina to a packed crowd of Washington and Baltimore fans inside the intimate venue.
Stepping out on stage, he began to chip away at one of the most vocally challenging catalogs in the business with remarkable strength. It was stunning, in a word. Yes, the character of his voice has changed, but the unmistakable tone is the same.
The crowd thought so too.
After the closing notes of “I Want to Know What Love Is”, Gramm was treated to one of the longest standing ovations imaginable. The song sent chills, and so did his genuine words of thanks that followed.
“You don’t know how much it means to me to hear that kind of reaction to something I was a part of,” he said.
His obvious humility was perhaps most evident in the last piece of that quote. It sure would have been easy to call that number 1 song something “I did”, but “something I was a part of” is a telling way to phrase it. A strong respect for his Foreigner bandmates seems to be intact.
Gramm took on his solo hits as well, giving anthemic performances of “Just Between You and Me” and “Midnight Blue” that were reminders of his songwriting talents.
But nothing cut more sharply than his haunting delivery of “That Was Yesterday”, when it began to feel like 1984 all over again. His voice still nicely fits the moody Foreigner track, and his added emotional delivery sealed the deal. This one would have been worth the price of admission alone.
His band, including a brother on drums, is solid enough for the material. But let’s be honest, all eyes were on Gramm most of the night. He is a legend, and the audience knew it.
Whether Gramm and Jones decide to stir up a Foreigner reunion like they did in front of the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in New York City this June is still in question, but Gramm’s readiness is not. And with Jones still a menacing force on guitar, why not make it happen.
Reunion or not, there’s more than enough Foreigner going around to keep fans happy. That might be satisfaction enough.