Foreigner made a long-hoped-for return to the stage on Wednesday in Orlando, Fla., during the first of two socially distanced shows at the Frontyard Festival.

“It was great to be back with everybody again. It’s great to have the feeling of doing a show. It was funny, because as normal as it is to do a show, it was odd that it felt a little odd,” Foreigner bassist Jeff Pilson chuckles during an exclusive interview with UCR. “That’s the longest I’ve gone in I don’t know how long without doing a show. But it was really great.”

The Frontyard Festival is a new series of post-COVID concerts being overseen by the Dr. Phillips Center, who developed the new venue as a way to put on events in a socially distanced era.

Groups of up to five people are given their own 5’x7’ box and the venue has safety protocols clearly outlined so that fans will know what to expect upon arrival. Other artists have been booked for the series including Sammy Hagar & the Circle, who will perform a pair of concerts next week.

“Everybody was excited,” Pilson says. “You know, the audience were all in those pods, because it’s set up for outdoor social distancing. So it was a little more sedate of a reaction than usual.”

Still, the revised format and rules in place hardly dampened the spirit of those who were in attendance. “You could just feel the enthusiasm,” he adds. “You could feel everybody just being happy to get to celebrate and do live music again.”

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Guitarist Luis Maldonado, who just joined the lineup, took part in a series of intensive practice sessions in advance of the Orlando engagement. Pilson says as a result, “we actually felt pretty well-rehearsed going in,” for their first live dates in 14 months.

“But there’s the unusualness of the way it sounds at a gig and the way it sounds at rehearsals [and those] are always two different things,” he explains. “But we felt ready to do it. Now, it was just a matter of getting out there and getting smooth about it again. I have a feeling that tonight’s show will be a notch even more smooth. But overall, that was one of the best first gigs I’ve ever experienced, so it was great.”

Pilson calls Maldonado a “phenomenal” guitar player who is quickly finding his place in Foreigner. “He really gets to play rock guitar like he loves,” he says. “His enthusiasm is palpable [and] he’s also an amazing singer.”

He’s glad that Foreigner is back in action after such a long break, with more than 30 shows currently booked for the year. “I was looking forward to seeing everybody. I was looking forward to playing,” he says. “You know, yes, I got very comfortable at home. And yes, it was nice being able to go into my studio everyday. Those were things that for years, I’ve been wishing I could do more of. So I just tried to look on the bright side. But it’s good to be back playing and doing what we do.”

While there’s “always some new music that’s being thrown about” in the Foreigner camp, they didn’t make much progress during the shutdown. “Mick [Jones is] in New York and isn’t wild about remote work. So we couldn’t get too much done,” Pilson says. “But I’d say that everybody stayed plenty busy with other musical projects. Pretty much everyone has some kind of a studio of their own. So there was a lot of music going down, just not the usual course of business.”

Foreigner might look to finish some of the new music that Jones has had in the works at some point this year, but there’s nothing definite yet. “It’s not like we’re planning a whole new record anytime soon,” he shares. “But we would like to have some new music come out on any packages that we release within the next couple of years. That’s really the only timetable.”


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