A Foreigners Journey, Holmfirth 2022

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A Foreigners Journey always provide a great evening's entertainment, and tonight was no exception

Holmfirth: Picturedrome - 26-Feb-2022

A Foreigners Journey always provide a great evening's entertainment, and tonight was no exception. I made my annual trip to see AFJ at the Holmfirth Picturedrome, where I've seen them several times in the past. This is virtually a hometown gig for AFJ, so this show is always that bit extra special. As usual, there was a good number in attendance, with strangely for a Rock gig, more women than men, probably a sixty/forty split.

Guitarist Ricky Middleton walked on to the stage with a Ukrainian flag, which was a nice touch, before proceeding to play the riff to Journey's classic 'Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)'. He was already accompanied by original founding members of AFJ, Paul Flanaghan (bass) and Ian Ferris (drums), who held down a sold rhythm throughout; plus, Jon Pease on keyboards. They were soon joined by Italian singer Andrea Ojano and the show got off to its usual fantastic start with 'Ask The Lonely' (the Journey song from the 1983 'Two Of A Kind' soundtrack) and 'Double Vision' (Foreigner) following on.

The usual mix of Journey and Foreigner songs kept the fans happy with personal highlights being 'Stone In Love' with its extended instrumental outro, leading to the brilliant 'Edge Of The Blade' where Middleton channelled his inner-Neal Schon and was at his indomitable best. The heaviness continued with 'Head Games' (Foreigner) before the sublime ballad 'Faithfully' (Journey), which Sardinian Ojano described as one of his favourites.

The sound, although not poor, did not seem to my ears to be up to the usually high standards associated with the Holmfirth Picturedrome; a fraction too loud and lacking the usually near-perfect clarity. However, this did not seem to affect either the band or crowd. 'I'll Be Alright Without You' from Journey's 1986 'Raised On Radio' opus highlighted the great backing vocals, an integral part of the band. The group left the stage leaving frontman Ojana to play an acoustic version of Foreigner's 'The Flame Still Burns'.

I was pleased that 'Urgent' was included in tonight's set even with the obvious omission of the classic saxophone; Middleton improvised perfectly and showed why this song should always be included. The crowd were encouraged to sing along for 'Cold As Ice', and when Ojana stopped the song to start again, citing that the audience could do better, they duly obliged and took the proverbial roof off. The main set was brought to a rousing conclusion with Journey's 'Any Way You Want It'.

The musicians left the stage for a couple of minutes before returning for a three-song encore starting with 'Jukebox Hero' (Foreigner). Middleton once again picked up the Ukrainian flag and laid it across the bass drum for the poignant 'I Want To Know What Love Is'. That just left the ultimate Melodic Rock classic, Journey's 'Don't Stop Believin'' to send everyone home with a smile on their face and hoping and praying that the conflict in the Ukraine can be brought to a swift and peaceful conclusion.

Mark Donnelly

1. Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) (Journey) / 2. Ask The Lonely (Journey) / 3. Double Vision (Foreigner) / 4. Waiting For A Girl Like You (Foreigner) / 5. Stone In Love (Journey) / 6. Edge Of The Blade (Journey) / 7. Head Games (Foreigner) / 8. Faithfully (Journey) / 9. I'll Be Alright Without You (Journey) / 10. Flame Still Burns (Foreigner)
11. Urgent (Foreigner) / 12. Be Good To Yourself (Journey) / 13. Who's Crying Now (Journey) / 14. Feels Like The First Time (Foreigner) / 15. Cold As Ice (Foreigner) / 16. Any Way You Want It (Journey)

Encore: 17. Jukebox Hero (Foreigner) / 18. I Want To Know What Love Is (Foreigner) / 19. Don't Stop Believin' (Journey)

Mark Donnelly

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