ROANOKE, Va. – Christiansburg High School students had the opportunity of a lifetime Thursday night as they sung on stage with the classic rock giant, Foreigner.
The weather held out and made for a great night of music in downtown Roanoke Thursday, as Foreigner belted out about a dozen of their hits at Elmwood Park. Foreigner bassist, Jeff Pilson, said the band loves playing in small venues like Elmwood park as compared to the mega-concerts.
"In a situation like this where the people are right there, it really gives you a chance to interact and it really makes the show more of an experience, it makes it more than just a show," Pilson said.
And it was the experience of a lifetime for many Christiansburg High School students when they joined Foreigner on stage to sing backup for their hit "I Want To Know What Love Is." Senior Rianna Hall never expected what happened at the end of the song, when Pilson motioned her to come over and play his bass guitar with him.
"He pointed at me and I had to take my two pointer fingers and hit on the strings of the guitar," Hall said. "And then he took my hands and strummed the guitar, that was really scary, but it was awesome and I'm so thankful for it."
The Christiansburg choir won the right to be on stage by beating out schools from all across southwest Virginia. They practiced the hit for weeks leading up to it, and despite the fact that the song came out in 1984, nearly 20 years before any of them were born, they never missed a beat. Christiansburg High School choral director Mandi Steele said she was thrilled her students had the chance to do something that most people never get to do.
"They were awesome, it was cool to watch kids achieve things they didn't think they could do and I'm back In the back crying, proud mom, heart's exploding I'm so proud of them," Steele said.
The faces of Foreigner have changed since they started back in the 1970's and although the one remaining original member, Mick Jones, did not perform in the show, the group says their passion ties them together over the decades and that's their parting advice for the young rockers they shared the stage with.
"Do what's in your heart, don't follow trends, always pay attention to what's going on, but stay true to what's in your heart and that will always lead you into the right place," Pilson said.
The show was a complete sellout, only the second concert to ever be standing room only in the venue's history. Sheryl Crow is the only other act to accomplish such a feat, her show was the inaugural show after the venue's complete remodel in 2014. Show organizers, Downtown Roanoke Inc., said Foreigner was the biggest act the venue's hosted so far.
The Christiansburg students were arguably some of the youngest people in the crowd, but Steele said her students enjoyed the rest of the concert just as much as everyone else.
"They spent most of the concert singing along with everything, they've been listening, they knew the songs, it's really cool to see what I knew as a kid come back around," Steele said. "It makes me feel not as old."