Foreigner wants to bring real-life glee to fans of all ages.
Even though the band’s music comes from the era of classic rock, band member Tom Gimbel said support remains strong and not everybody in the audience has gray in his or her hair.
“It feels like our support is growing because there are fewer and fewer bands like us out there still rocking,” said the multi-instrumentalist. “We’re lucky that we have not only an audience of people who remember these songs when they were on the radio, but a new audience of people discovering these songs. Kids love to go through their parents’ records and feel like they are discovering something. Sometimes we have two, three generations coming to shows.”
For five years, members of the group have been cultivating the next generation of musicians by bringing a local high school choir on stage to sing “I Want to Know What Love Is” with them. At Foreigner’s show at the 2012 Stanislaus County Fair, members were accompanied by the Johansen High School choir from Modesto. A different choir will be selected for the onstage honor this time around, through a contest being run by 1041.1 FM The Hawk.
The band donates $500 to the choir that accompanies it. The idea to bring student choirs on stage was in response to disappearing music programs at schools across the country.
“We wanted to do something to help, so we teamed up with the Grammy Foundation to do anything we could,” Gimbel said. “It’s hard to imagine a school without a band. How can they take it away? It’s a subject very near and dear to our hearts. I played in school band from fifth grade to high school. It’s a great way to further people’s minds.”
He said performing with young singers has been great. “They usually come really well-prepared and are very professional,” he said. “It’s always a great look of exhilaration from them, and we really get a kick out of it.”
But student musicians aren’t the only high-schoolers Foreigner has been hobnobbing with of late. The band has supported that other “Glee,” as well. Two Foreigner songs – “Waiting For a Girl Like You” and “Jukebox Hero” – have been used on the popular Fox musical series. While some other bands have declined the use of their songs, Foreigner has embraced the show and its youthful audience.
“It’s that natural evolution. I think it’s always an honor when someone wants to do your song,” Gimbel said.
Besides the No. 1 smash “I Want to Know What Love Is,” Foreigner has hits through the ’70s and ’80s with Top 10 singles “Double Vision,” “Hot Blooded,” “Urgent,” “Feels Like the First Time,” “I Don’t Want to Live Without You,” “Say You Will” and “Cold as Ice.” The group blended the styles of English musician Mick Jones and American vocalist Lou Gramm to become radio staples.
Since its inception in 1976, the band has been through many incarnations. In 1992, Jones and Gramm reunited, but then in 2003, the latter left the group again. He was replaced by vocalist Kelly Hansen, who remains with the group today. Jones is the band’s only original member, but Gimbel – who formerly played with Aerosmith – has clocked in the most time since. He joined in 1992 and plays saxophone, rhythm guitar and flute for Foreigner.
“We always have that great anchor and visionary at the helm in Mick,” Gimbel said. “I’ve learned so much over 20 years watching him. We’re able to maintain this and carry the torch forward and also bring our own elements into the band.”
The Bee is holding a Facebook contest to give away two tickets and a meet-and-greet with Foreigner before the band’s Nov. 8 show at the Turlock Community Theatre. To enter, go to the Modesto Bee page on Facebook ( www.facebook.com/modestobee) and “Like” us. Then find the contest post and leave a comment that says “Enter me in the Foreigner contest.” If you already “Like” our page, just leave the comment "Enter me in the Foreigner contest" on the contest post. One entry per Facebook profile. Besides the grand prize, five entrants will also be selected at random to receive the new three-disc Foreigner “Feels Like the First Time” album. Contest closes at 11:59 p.m. Nov. 5. The Bee will randomly select a winner from all of the entries. We will contact the winner via Facebook on Nov. 6.