Foreigner: Still rockin’ audiences worldwide

29 Oct

The longevity of Foreigner is not a surprise to rock and roll enthusiasts, who’ve embraced the band and its music since the group came together in 1976. And now their latest CD, “Feels Like the First Time,” offers amazing versions of their biggest hits, plus a DVD of a performance. The group is currently finishing a long tour, and we caught up with the band for an interview for On and Beyond and Entertainment Journal.

Foreigner’s debut album produced #1 hits ‘Feels Like the First Time,” “Cold As Ice” and “Long, Long Way Home.” Their album “Double Vision” followed, and during the zenith of the ‘80s sound, three more Foreigner albums topped the charts.

Still rockin': Foreigner remains a hot concert ticket throughout the world.

Still rockin’: Foreigner remains a hot concert ticket throughout the world.

Though the group broke up briefly in 2002, founder Mick Jones responded to an outpouring of public support and encouragement and reloaded a new powerhouse lineup of musicians, and Foreigner was back. Now, 37 years after the group’s first performances, its latest tour is once again propelling them to the top of the charts, taking them across the U.S. as well as to South America, Mexico and Europe. They will return to England to start a new tour of the UK next April.

Multi-talented musician Tom Gimbel, who plays rhythm guitar, keyboards, sax and flute for Foreigner, spoke about the group’s long-lasting and ever-increasing popularity.

“It’s a real testament to the quality of the songs,” he said. “Mick is a master of songwriting. Woven into his material is a real heartfelt, soulful sentiment. I’ve seen Mick write a song and actually be in tears. He puts his heart into it and I think that sincerity shows up over time.”

Jones was elected last February to the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In addition to penning many of Foreigners’ hits, he wrote “Bad Love” for Eric Clapton and “Dreamer” with Ozzy Osbourne, and has produced records for the likes of Billy Joel and Van Halen. He’s been nominated for both Grammy and Golden Globe awards, and won the prestigious British Ivor Novello Songwriter Award for “The Flame Still Burns” from the movie “Still Crazy.”

Gimbel, who joined Foreigner after performing with Aerosmith for years, learned that Jones was looking for someone “who played guitar and sax and sing. I wanted to man that rhythm guitar, so I jumped at the chance to join the band.”

In 2012, they experienced another surge in popularity when three of their songs were featured on the “Rock of Ages” soundtrack, “more songs than from any other band,” Gimbel said. Hollywood took note, and several tracks were included in the films “Magic Mike” and “Pitch Perfect.” Those send Foreigner music downloads up 400 percent, with their catalog outselling The Eagles, Def Leppard, Tom Petty and The Who that year.

“I think people still have a lot of hunger for this type of music,” Gimbel said. “It’s kind of a throwback in a way—no spinning, no deejays—what we call traditional rock. All ages show up to watch us, and I can’t believe how young some of the kids are who are rocking out. It’s nice to see some who enjoy their parents’ music.”

His favorite Foreigner tune? “’Urgent.’ I always get an extra charge out of that one, playing the sax in a brutal, almost full tilt pace—going from 0 to 1,000 miles an hour. It’s a challenge, but it’s an adrenaline rush for all of us, and it really kick starts the show.”

Though many of today’s up-and-coming musical artists are geared to go solo, Gimbel believes “kids still love to form rock bands in their garages. It’s more fun to be in a band, and there’s a lot of great ones out there that we haven’t heard of. But we will.”

Like his Foreigner bandmates, Gimbel is right where he always wanted to be—enjoying a career in music that keeps on giving not only to their fans, but to group’s members as well.

“If you have a little luck, develop some talent and work hard, good things will happen,” he said. “These are great years for us.”

And for fans of Foreigner as well.

-Tom Haraldsen

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