In the annals of rock and roll history, “Foreigner” endures as one of music’s greatest success stories. With a staggering ten platinum albums and thirty Top 40 hits to their credit, the band’s record sales have surpassed 100 million worldwide. Foreigner has given us some of our most memorable songs in a recording catalog that includes “Cold As Ice,” “Feels Like The First Time,” “Hot Blooded,” “Jukebox Hero,” “Head Games,” “Waiting For A Girl Like You” and “I Wanna Know What Love Is.”
With only co-founding member and lead guitarist Mick Jones remaining, Foreigner (whose current line-up also features Thom Gimbel (guitar/ vocals), Jeff Pilson (bass)/ vocals), Kelly Hanson (lead vocals), Michael Bluestein (keyboards/ vocals) and Chris Frazier (drums)) has painstakingly secured a triumphant return to the spotlight.
“I understand how people could be skeptical,” says bassist Jeff Pilson. “It doesn’t shock me or turn me off. The fact that the audience has been so good at letting us reestablish Foreigner with different members has been a great thing. Nobody takes that lightly. We all greatly appreciate it. We have nothing to complain about. I feel like we’ve been nothing but welcomed and that to me speaks volumes.”
“Everybody in the band is a fan of the band,” said Pilson. “We all have great respect and admiration for the legacy of the band and all that the band has achieved. I think we are great musicians, and we do our best to interpret what we believe to be Mick’s vision. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We just have to recreate what we like. I think you’re getting the best of both worlds this way,” added Pilson. “I love the original Foreigner, but if it can’t be here I think what you’re getting now is something that is going to be very true to the music and give you the very best show we can every single night.”
Formed in 1976 by Mick Jones, Ian McDonald, Lou Gramm, Dennis Elliott (drums), Al Greenwood (keyboards) and Ed Gagliardi (bass), Foreigner released its smash hit self-titled debut album the following year. Surpassing more than four million copies sold on the strength of the singles “Feels Like The First Time,” “Cold As Ice” and “Long, Long Way From Home,” the band earned the first of many platinum honors.
Their follow-up album “Double Vision” (1978), which included three more hit singles, “Hot Blooded,” “Blue Morning, Blue Day” and “Double Vision,” did even better by selling more than five million copies. Rounding out the trifecta with the release of “Head Games” (1979) (containing the hits “Dirty White Boy” and the album’s title track) placed the band in the company of rock’s biggest names.
Throughout the ’80s the hits continued. “Urgent,” “Waiting For A Girl Like You,” “Jukebox Hero,” “That Was Yesterday,” “Say You Will” and their first and only number one hit “I Want to Know What Love Is” pervaded the FM radio waves.
By 1990 the staggering commercial success of Foreigner began to wane. Gramm left the band to pursue a solo career before rejoining a couple years later to produce the greatest hit album “The Very Best of … and Beyond.” Gramm played his last show with Jones in 2002 before reigniting his solo career.
In 2004 Jones unveiled a revamped version of Foreigner that included current band member Jeff Pilson.
“I was a big Foreigner fan before I joined the band,” recalls Pilson. “I always thought they had great songs. I loved Lou Gramm’s voice, and I loved the way they combined hard rock into great songs and great melodies.”
“When I joined the band I found out they’re as good as they are because Mick Jones has very high standards,” said Pilson. “He’s very true to what he believes in. He’s a great visionary, and it’s not a fluke that Foreigner sold as many records as they did.”
In 2009 Foreigner released “Can’t Slow Down,” followed by the band’s three disc set “Feels Like The First Time,” which included an acoustic CD with an intimate and unique re-interpretation of many Foreigner classics, studio re-records by the new lineup and a live performance DVD showcasing the group’s exceptional live energy.
Following the release of the feature film “Rock of Ages” in 2012, which included the songs “I Want To Know What Love Is,” “Juke Box Hero” and “Waiting For A Girl Like You” in the soundtrack, Foreigner enjoyed a nice surge in popularity.
In June of this year, at the 44th Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Award Ceremony, Mick Jones and Lou Gramm were officially inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame
“I think Foreigner was very instrumental in making hard rock main stream music,” said Pilson. “A lot of the songs - “Cold As Ice,” “I Wanna Know What Love Is” and “Jukebox Hero” have crept into the culture. As long as that’s there and as long as you have a band willing to deliver it, I think we’re going to be around for a long time.”
Foreigner and Styx Perform at Sands Steel Stage at PNC Plaza - Steel Stacks Campus at 7 p.m. on Wednesday Aug. 7, ArtsQuest, 25 W. Third Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015. Tickets: $44 to $54 (plus $9 per ticket Service/Venue fee and $1.50 City Amusement tax). For more information or to order tickets call 610-332-1300 or visit www.musikfest.org