Jukebox heroes bring on the hits -- Gazette.Net







Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
E-mail this article
Leave a Comment
Print this Article

When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 22
Where: Frederick Fairgrounds, 797 E. Patrick St., Frederick
Tickets: $47-52
For information: thegreatfrederickfair.com

Seventy million albums sold worldwide. Top-20 hits? Fourteen and counting. Multi-platinum hits? Forget about it!

In more than 30 years, Foreigner has put together a string of favorites that would make even the casual fan start singing if they hear it in the car.

Still rocking after all these years, Foreigner will put a bow on the Great Frederick Fair as the closing act at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 22.

On tour promoting their “Feels Like the First Time” two-CD set, the band has gone back into the booth to record some of their all-time greatest songs as an acoustic set. The second disc is a collection of their hits remastered.

What in the world possessed them to put out an acoustic CD? According to Foreigner’s sax and guitar player, it was just a natural progression.

“We were doing some acoustic shows live and were astounded by the response, and people would get on their feet and cheer louder,” says Tom Gimbel, who’s been with the band full time since 1995. “Mick looked at me and said, ‘What is going on?’ So they thought acoustic would be a good way to go.”

Mick, in this case, would be Mick Jones, one of the founders and the last original member of Foreigner. When it comes to anything related to Foreigner, it has to go through Jones.

“It’s Mick’s band. If you do what Mick needs, everything is fine,” Gimbel says. “He does have the vision and he knows all the boundaries and he wants you to give 100 percent.

“He wants to bring the best out of everyone. The smart bandleaders do that throughout the years. We have a lot of respect for him. He’s a visionary.”

Gimbel, who says he grew up listening to Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, all the while wanting to play the drums, spent some time playing with Aerosmith before joining Foreigner.

“It was very difficult switching from Aerosmith to Foreigner because I was switching from keyboards and rhythm guitar, so that part was a lift ... I was ecstatic,” Gimbel says. “I had to learn about becoming more of a guitar player. I dove into that world head-first.

“Dave Amato, from REO Speedwagon, is a golf buddy of mine and he helped me along the way about the good guitar and the good sounds so I could match with Mick.”

Gimbel is the first to say Foreigner enjoys playing large arenas just as much as they like playing smaller venues. For them, it’s about the connection with fans.

“We’re really happy playing someplace small — the energy is huge and that thrill comes from the connection,” Gimbel says. “If you have a larger venue, that’s an incredible thrill, also. You feel like you’re connecting with that many people.

“With Aerosmith in Woodstock 2, there were, like, two million people and it was huge.”

Throughout the past few years, Foreigner has reached a new status: pop culture icons.

Most recently, their songs were used in the movie “Rock of Ages,” and a certain Foreigner belt buckle caused a lot of problems in an episode of the Cartoon Network show “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.”

“I think it’s cool because the world has become pop culture,” Gimbel says. “Before, there were more hard-core music enthusiasts, and it’s so intertwined with pop culture.

“It’s a testament to the popularity of the songs and the magic of the songs. Whenever we’re looking at songs like ‘Hot Blooded’ or ‘Feels Like The First Time,’ we’re looking for a little magic.”

Though Foreigner has had many different members throughout the years (close to 37, including Jones), Gimbel says it’s not an issue of people not getting along or musical differences.

“I feel very lucky we [the current band members] are the ones who haven’t retired or quit or gotten fired,” Gimbel says. “With Mick, you could never find a sharper pair of ears. He hears everything.

“I remember when I suggested a key change, which everyone liked. I waited awhile before I brought it up to Mick and he said, jokingly, ‘It took you five years to come up with that?’ We have a lot of respect for him.”

When it’s all said and done, though, Gimbel only has two things in mind.

“Drumming and golfing, that’s about it. Apparently, I like to hit things,” Gimbel jokes. “If I had to hang it up today, I’d go home and start practicing the drums. It’s one of my hobbies.

“It’s great — it’s a hobby and a cardio workout.”