Foreigner, a band with a mission

CHESTER – When the classic rock band Foreigner comes to the Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort at 8 p.m. Friday, the band will not only bring its legacy of hits through the decades but also offer a little help of its own to a local school.

The Oak Glen High School Choir will perform with the band on the band’s classic hit “I Want To Know What Love Is” when they perform at the Harv Friday. Foreigner will donate $500 to the choir for appearing with the band, and the choir will sell Foreigner CDs at the concert to raise money for Foreigner’s charity partner, the Grammy Foundation. Both Foreigner and the Grammy Foundation are intent upon helping to keep music education available to students as part of the core curriculum in high schools throughout North America.

The band’s brand of meat-and-potatoes, classic rock has always gone over well in the working-class Ohio Valley, with the hits “Juke Box Hero,” “Feels Like The First Time,” “Urgent,” “Head Games,” “Cold As Ice,” “Dirty White Boy,” “Long, Long Way From Home” and the worldwide No. 1 hit, “I Want To Know What Love Is,” making the band a popular attraction here for decades.

The band reformed in 1992 after co-founders Mick Jones and singer Lou Gramm decided to hit the road again. Although Gramm eventually left, Jones still is at the helm, along with co-members Kelly Hansen, singer; Tom Gimbel, sax and guitar; Jeff Pilson, bass; and drummer Michael Bluestein.

Gimbel has been with the reformed lineup since 1992, and said he enjoys nothing more than touring and playing with a band with a legacy.

“I actually dabble on any instrument they put in my hands,” he said during an interview with the Herald-Star Tuesday. “I think part of the reason we’re still so successful is because of our entire package. That and (our songs) speak to the tribulations people go through.”

Gimbel credits singer Hansen as being a big part of the band’s resurgence, being a high-energy entertainer as well as a dynamic and excellent singer.

Gimbel began with the band after acquiring a reputation performing with Aerosmith, he said. “The way I was recommended to Foreigner was during a golf game,” he said, adding word of mouth was Gimbel could handle the gig. “My audition was basically to go to dinner with (Jones and Gramm). It was 1992, and it was a joyous time for me and the band. (Gramm) left in 2002.”

Gimbel said Foreigner got involved with students from local schools performing with the band after learning cuts were being made in school music programs nationwide.

“It was like, anything we could do to help,” he said. “We got involved with the Grammy Foundation, and we’ve been doing this for a couple of years. It’s called ‘Save the Music.’ It’s a cool thing. It’s kind of like giving (school choirs and performers) their first gig.”

Gimbel said a lot of kids don’t get to experience the joy of playing in a musical situation together, and this was a way to get them excited about performing music as a unit.

“It’s just not the same as playing by yourself),” he said. “It forces you to focus, listen and play together.”

Being on the road for long periods can take its toll on the performers, but Gimbel said while the guys in the band have done their share of partying in the past, these days it’s all about hitting the gym and keeping in shape for the stamina required.

“We’re doing 120 shows a year,” said Gimbel, who at the time of the interview was in Vancouver, Canada. “That’s 10 months out of the year. Now it’s three out of the four seasons. We do have a tour bus that takes us from city to city.”

The band typically checks into a hotel, takes it easy and then goes seeking the nearest gym for a workout, eats and “times it so we’re at our peak for the day’s performance,” he said. On the tour bus they typically watch TV, practice their instruments and stay focused, Gimbel added.

Gimbel said while that can be tough on members with a family life, he decided to stay single to pursue his passion. “I just decided to dedicate my life to music in a band.”

Gimbel’s biography on the band’s official website states he attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston before embarking on a career. He’s also a professional golf instructor.

Tickets are general admission by section. Ticket prices are bleachers, $30; section D, $40; Section C, $50; section B, $60; section A, $70; and reserved, $90. There is an additional $2.50 service fee, as well as tax. Tickets can be purchased at; at Mountaineer’s players club; or by calling (800) 80-40-HOT (800-804-0468), extension 8297.