Foreigner farewell tour stops at Hard Rock Atlantic City; Il Verdi at Tropicana: Better than ever?

Also, our casino columnist helps celebrate Tom Petty’s birthday at Hard Rock Café.
Foreigner, for what feels like he last time, at the Hard Rock Atlantic City.
Foreigner, for what feels like he last time, at the Hard Rock Atlantic City..

We are obviously ensconced in the era of the classic-rock farewell tour. The Eagles and Aerosmith are among those vintage units currently on the road for what each band swears is its last hurrah. And to that list can be added Foreigner.

The hybrid Brit-Yank arena-rock outfit, whose jukebox-full of signatures include “Cold As Ice,” “Hot Blooded,” “I Want To Know What Love Is” and “Waiting For A Girl Like You” is currently on its swan-song road trip—dubbed the Feels Like the Last Time tour, a play on the title of one of the group’s most popular tunes. The cross-country march brings the unit to the Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City on Oct. 27 and 28.

The logical assumption would be that the rigors of touring have become too much for 78-year-old Mick Jones, the band’s guiding light since its 1976 debut (and sole remaining original member). But according to keyboard player Michael Bluestein, it’s a younger member on whom performing has taken its toll.

“Actually, a lot of it is coming from our lead singer, Kelly Hansen,” noted Bluestein during a recent phone chat.

“He's been with the band close to 20 years now; in his own words, these songs are just really challenging for a high-tenor singer like him. The songs are way up there range-wise, and he's been doing it for a while. He's in his early-sixties now, and frankly, he's still doing a fantastic job. But, there's a sense that that won't go on forever, and the desire to kind of go out on top, and go out while he's still doing it well…that's really where a lot of it's coming from.”

But bands don’t necessarily call it quits when a member leaves. Foreigner certainly didn’t when original lead singer Lou Gramm—who as much as anyone was responsible for the unit’s sonic thumbprint—left the fold in 1990 (only to return in ’92 and split again in 2003).

“I'm sure that’s been discussed in the upper levels of management, but I don’t have any insight into that as of now,” he said. “My understanding is that it's wrapping up, this chapter is wrapping up, certainly as far as Kelly fronting the band is concerned.”

Interestingly, Bluestein, who joined Foreigner in 2008, left open the possibility of future gigs. “I don't think that [Jones] is necessarily permanently shutting the faucet off,” he offered, adding that any future performances “would be substantially less, and just sort of special, engagements here and there.”

Although he was primarily a jazz musician in his earlier days (including his time at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music), Bluestein has also lent his talents to a number of pop and rock artists including Anastacia, Boz Scaggs and Stevie Nicks. He was also part of ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel’s studio band. But his current gig may be the most meaningful to him, considering there was a time he couldn’t be sure he’d still be alive in 2023, much less a part of a major rock group.

In May 2012, the then-43-year-old Bluestein was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. However, he recalled, “The doctors told me pretty early on that it was it wasn't gonna be easy, but that it wasn't a death sentence, that it was treatable. But you know, you never know if things are gonna go right; it can spread, of course. And then once you do the surgeries and everything, they test, they gotta do scans and see if there's any recurrence of it, or if it showed up anywhere else.

“I was obviously thrilled and grateful that they got it all and, all these years later I’m good to go.”

For tickets, go to

Il Verdi reboot e superiore  

Il Verdi, the venerable Italian dining room inside Tropicana Atlantic City, has been open in its new location (overlooking the beach, ocean and Boardwalk) for several months.  But having finally had the chance to dine there a couple weeks ago, I would be remiss if I didn’t reaffirm how wonderful it is.

The interior redesign has, at least to these (admittedly aging) eyes, been extensive enough to make it seem like a significantly different space than it was through its many previous incarnations (including, most recently, the South American-focused Olon from “Iron Chef” Jose Garces). But it’s the kitchen where the changes are most notable.

In its previous (much-smaller) location, Il Verdi, while certainly upscale and elegant, pretty much was about traditional Italian dishes. But under the impressive direction of Chef Michael Buckley, the fare has definitely taken several sizable steps forward. While traditional items like veal and chicken parmesan are still on the bill of fare, the menu also features more contemporary takes on seafood, fowl, pork and beef (although not a steakhouse, you definitely can’t go wrong with their steak offerings).

Il Verdi—which, with the closing of Nero’s Italian Steakhouse at Caesars Atlantic City in September 2022, ranks as AyCee’s second-oldest casino restaurant (the 45-year-old Capriccio at Resorts Casino Hotel remains the longevity champ)—certainly has more than its share of competition. But it absolutely can go plate-to-plate with any other gaming hall Italian eatery.

Shameless plug

If you’re a fan of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, then you absolutely have to be at the Hard Rock Café Friday (Oct. 20) as Pure Petty marks what would have been the late rock immortal’s 73rd birthday. In honor of the occasion, the event has been dubbed a “St. Petty’s Day” celebration.

Not only will the evening feature the many hits Petty wrote (and co-wrote) and recorded before his death in 2017, but there will be a number of deeper tracks offered for hardcore fans.

Pure Petty is simply the best Tom Petty tribute band working today. And in case you’re wondering how I can make such a statement, well, I’m the band’s bass player!

Show time is 9 p.m. (we’ll play two 90 minute sets). Hope to see you there!

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