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Oct 13, 2015

Foreigner keeps on rocking

Greenville News

Donna Isbell Walker, [email protected] 2:12 p.m. EDT October 12, 2015

Foreigner has been around for nearly four decades, churning out hard-rocking hits like “Hot Blooded” and “Urgent” that earned founding members Mick Jones and Lou Gramm a spot in the Songwriting Hall of Fame.

But that doesn’t mean the band is looking to replicate the sounds of those records in every live show.

Tom Gimbel joined Foreigner 20 years ago, coming in when the band already had a well-established sound and a vault full of gold and platinum records.

Even so, Gimbel, who plays guitar, sax and keyboards, said he always felt like founding members Jones and Gramm gave him room to put his own stamp on the sound.

"They wanted new ideas. They're not really married to re-creating things,” Gimbel said in a recent phone interview. “They're really more interested in what you can inject into it. And people who are really into the finer elements of music, that's what they're always looking for, the special something. ... It's that extra something that you can't even define."

Gimbel, who comes to the Peace Center with Foreigner on Sunday, is a graduate of Berklee College of Music and a veteran of bands like Aerosmith and Jon Butcher Axis. For him, that “extra something” is pure emotion.

"I'm a very emotional person, so it's got to come out some way. ... I just like to pour my heart and soul into the music."

Although it’s been a while since Foreigner had a big hit, the music has never really left the airwaves of classic rock radio, and it was introduced to a whole new generation through games like Guitar Hero.

These days, Jones is the only remaining original member, and the sound is a bit harder-edged than fans might remember.

“We have Jeff Pilson on bass. He used to be in Dokken, so he's got this driving kind of feel. And that propels the rhythm section. And then you've got Mick Jones on guitar. His sound has also gotten tougher over the years, more aggressive,” Gimbel said.

Gimbel doesn’t have one particular favorite song to play in concert, although he’s partial to “Urgent,” because he has a chance to cut loose on the sax. And then there’s “Double Vision.”

“A song like 'Double Vision' makes my foot want to stomp, like right through the floorboards of the car," Gimbel said.

The audience at a Foreigner show spans the generations, from baby boomers who cruised around town as teens with “Jukebox Hero” blasting out of the car speakers, to their kids and even grandkids.

The music resonates with kids, though Gimbel said that some of them think that one of Foreigner’s biggest hits was called “Juice Box Hero.”

“We're happy that they like that. We're very big with the 6-year-old set,” said Gimbel, a gregarious, chatty guy with a hearty chuckle.

Foreigner may be pushing 40, but the band's live shows remain lively. That’s due in part to “completely insane” lead singer Kelly Hansen, Gimbel said.

"He runs around in the crowd. He'll take selfies, he'll kiss girls, he'll do shots with people. Not your typical standoffish rock star, he's just totally out of his mind. He'll float on his belly, take people's cell phones, hold them up to the microphone, call their parents. He will make people stand up and sing and go crazy. He will stop at nothing, and have a good time doing it."

YOU CAN GO

Who: An Evening With Foreigner

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Peace Center

How much: $55-$85

For more: www.peacecenter.org