Gramm’s ready to return to Cleveland

By John Benson

The singer will perform Saturday in an all-star show for a rock hall benefit.

Among the many memories former Foreigner lead singer and current solo artist Lou Gramm has of Cleveland, the one that sticks out is the “Hot Blooded” band’s July 15, 1978, World Series of Rock Show with Electric Light Orchestra and Journey held at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

“Playing in the old stadium right on the lake was awesome,” said Gramm, calling from his Rochester, N.Y., home. “I can say I’ve never been at a louder show. The people in Cleveland are unbelievable.”

One bit of conjecture regarding that specific show often brought up three decades later is the rumor that Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra actually faked its live performance by playing along to a pre-recorded tape.

“I heard that rumor, too,” Gramm laughed. “And as I remember, I was watching them very closely. They were totally live.”

Being “totally live” is something Gramm will be doing Saturday for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s 7th annual “It’s Only Rock and Roll” benefit held at Public Hall. The all-star show is scheduled to include performances from Gramm (“Cold As Ice” and “Feels Like the First Time”), Patty Smyth (“The Warrior” and “Goodbye to You”) and the Sugarhill Gang (“Rapper’s Delight”).

Also on the bill are Howard Hewett of Shalamar (“The Second Time Around” and “Don’t Get Stopped in Beverly Hills”), Rob Parissi of Wild Cherry (“Play that Funky Music”) and Roy Head (“Treat Her Right” and “Just a Little Bit”).

In addition, the house band is quite impressive with a line-up featuring Ricky Byrd (Joan Jett, Roger Daltrey) and Jeff Carlisi (.38 Special) on guitars, Rob Arthur (Joan Osborne, Peter Frampton) on keys, Liberty Devitto (Billy Joel) on drums and Will Lee (“The Late Show with David Letterman”) on bass.

“I haven’t done many of these shows, but I’m looking forward to it,” Gramm said. “The band is unbelievable. I think it’s going to be a real fun and spontaneous evening, and the chemistry of the band will be interesting.

“I don’t think any of the songs will sound like the originals, but they’ll have a real cool slant to them.”

Something else cool to Gramm would be a Foreigner induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In his opinion, the ’70s and ’80s arena rock act has the qualifications for such an honor.

“I would have thought they would have it by now, and I don’t quite understand why they haven’t, but there’s always a reason, and I kind of just let things go as they may,” Gramm said. “I just think our quality of songs, the length of time we were together, our record sales is a huge number and we have top 20 hits and album airplay songs. I think we pretty much were near the top in all of those categories in our time.”

He added, “But you can’t petition for it. That’s not cool.”

Something else uncertain is when or if Gramm will reunite with former band mate Mick Jones, who still tours as Foreigner.

Gramm, who plays roughly 40 dates a year with the Lou Gramm Band (which includes Gramm’s brothers Ben and Richard) and is about to release his first Christian rock album, said he isn’t in any hurry for a reunion.

“I don’t know really and can’t say,” Gramm said. “I haven’t talked to [Mick] in a number of years but I don’t think we’re on bad terms. It’s kind of like we’re not on any terms right now.”

He added, “You know what, I’m playing with my two brothers in this band and I’m having the time of my life. As far as a Foreigner reunion, I don’t even dare say because as of right now, I don’t want to do anything else but what I’m doing.”