Foreigner comes to F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre to play acoustic hits
WILKES-BARRE — With chart climbers like “Feels Like The First Time” and “Hot Blooded,” Foreigner became an arena rock hit machine during the late 1970s and ’80s. In 2016, the band offers fans a way to hear such celebrated songs in an intimate format.
Foreigner performs at 8 p.m. Oct. 21 at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, 71 Public Square, on its “The Hits: Unplugged” tour. Around founding member, guitarist and songwriter Mick Jones, the band, which now includes singer Kelly Hanson, bass virtuoso Jeff Pilson and multi-instrumentalist Tom Gimbel, will play acoustic versions of songs from its well known catalogue.
Gimbel, who plays rhythm guitar, saxophone, flute and keyboards for Foreigner, was hired by Jones in 1992 after a stint playing keyboards with Aerosmith, and he’s been with the band through its early 2000s hiatus and reformation in 2005.
“It’s a perfect home for me, and I feel so fortunate to have found a place that wants me to do what I have to offer,” Gimbel said.
Gimbel handles a lot of the rhythm guitar work, but his wide range of talent is pulled for saxophone solos on songs that require it, like “Urgent.”
The band, Gimbel said, has maintained a revived energy since its reunion in 2005.
“Bringing in Jeff Pilson on bass, he’s such a driving force,” Gimbel said. “He really plays from the heart. He’s feeling every beat of music.”
Gimbel called the combined rhythm section of Pilson and drummer Chris Frazier a “freight train” and Hanson has been embraced by Foreinger faithful.
“I think it’s out of respect for anyone that can sing the songs the way he does, and deliver and be a front man and personality,” Gimbel said. “In terms of music, he knocks the ball out of the park every night … “Juke Box Hero, the high notes in ‘Urgent,’ you name it, and we have a great, great time doing it.”
Gimbel said Jones, who he calls a master in the studio, has been playing “edgier” guitar in the last decade.
“His guitar sound has gotten tougher,” Gimbel said. “It’s muscular in a way.”
Foreigner released the three-disc album, “Feels Like The First Time,” in 2011, which featured acoustic versions of the hits, new studio readings of the songs and a live disc.
“It works really well,” Gimbel said of the acoustic interpretations. “I think of it sometimes as a diamond in a different setting. These songs are perfectly constructed and that really shows.”
Gimbel said the band made the decision to keep doing acoustic shows after audiences began to respond to the tunes in a “naked scenario.”
In February, Foreigner released its first live acoustic album “In Concert • Unplugged,” with royalties going toward the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
And the JDRF is not the only worthy cause Foreigner champions. During the Oct. 21 Kirby show, which kicks off their tour, Foreigner will be joined on stage by a local high school choir to perform “I Want To Know What Love Is.”
The choir will be selected through a WEZX Rock 107 contest, and will receive $500 from Foreigner for appearing with the band. The choir will also sell Foreigner CDs at the concert to raise money for The Grammy Foundation, Foreigner’s charity partner focused on keeping music education alive in North American high schools.
“For us, being able to do something for kids is important,” Gimbel said. “They’re having their music programs taken away. It’s such a shame. This is our way of trying to pitch in.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter @TLArts
If you go:
What: Foreigner ‘The Hits: Unplugged’
Where: F.M. Kirby Center, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 21
Additional information: Tickets range from $49.50 to $76.50 and are available at the Kirby Center box office, online at kirbycenter.org and by phone at 570-826-1100. For VIP ticket information, visit kirbycenter.org.