Thom Gimbel has witnessed music industry changes since joining Foreigner in the mid-1990s. But none is more obviously than cellphone technology.
“We were playing at this venue and there was no filming and no pictures,” Gimbel says. “It was hysterical because the people didn’t know what to do. They weren’t sure how to watch a concert without recording it.”
One aspect has remained consistent, though, his contribution on stage to Foreigner, who plays The Pool at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale on Friday, June 7. Foreigner’s songs—“Urgent” in particular—make heavy use of Gimbel.
“Nowadays it’s unique to hear a wailing sax,” Gimbel adds. “We’re starting to hear it in pop music again. Alto sax is one of those instruments that lurks in the corner. Once in a while, it steps out.
“Foreigner is the perfect place for a sax-crazy person like me. Most people respond when they hear it. It’s a unique sound in a rock band. It blends really well—the distorted sax and fuzzy distorted guitar.”
Gimbel, who studied at the Berklee College of Music, has been in Foreigner for about half of its life. The band’s music has “gotten tougher,” thanks, in part, to bassist Jeff Pilson and guitarist Chris Frazier.
“They’re not messing around,” Gimbel says. “They’re heavy hitters. The guitar sounds a little tougher over the years. It’s more aggressive, but that’s a sign of the times. Times are tougher, so the guitar sounds are tougher.”
Singer Kelly Hansen is a force as well, Gimbel says.
He’s phenomenal,” he says. “We don’t understand how he exists. I don’t know how he can sing like that night after night in pitch, and then jump and yell. It’s wild.”
What’s driving Foreigner’s career is the creative sound of the band. Founding member Mick Jones blends American blues and European rock, and then layers heartfelt lyrics atop of it.
“That combination has really stood the test of time,” Gimbel says. “I’ve seen people who don’t like rock songs—older generations or younger—hear ‘Feels Like the First Time’ and say, ‘I like that. What is it? It’s good.’ There’s a lot of magic intertwined.”
Foreigner, Talking Stick Resort, 9800 E. Talking Stick Way, Scottsdale, 480.850.7777, talkingstickresort.com, 8 p.m. Friday, June 7, tickets start at $25.