Classic rock band Foreigner brings tour to McAllen

Members of the classic rock band Foreigner perform in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo from Mirman Photography)

Classic rock band Foreigner are no strangers to the Rio Grande Valley, scheduled to play here for the second time in just as many years.

Known for songs like “Urgent,” “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Juke Box Hero,” “Cold As Ice” and “Hot Blooded,” Foreigner was founded in 1976 by Mick Jones, the only remaining original member.

The performance at the McAllen Performing Arts Center on Wednesday will be just one of 100 shows they perform every year.

“You get used to it,” said Tom Gimbel, who plays rhythm guitar, keyboards, sax and flute for the group.

“It’s like a pacing and then when you stop it’s like being in a car that stops suddenly,” he said, “you have a little bit of a whiplash when you start and stop again so it’s easier to just keep going.

“That’s what our manager tells us anyway.”

But whether it’s really about pacing or just their manager convincing them of it, Gimbel said he loves touring.

“We absolutely love it,” he said. “The band is just rocking like I haven’t seen.”

Gimbel has played with Foreigner for more than 25 years, joining the band in the 1990s.

This year’s show, however, he said is particularly special because of technical improvements to the lighting and sound.

“We have some different sound crew personnel that make it sound better for us as players and lo and behold, people play better when it sounds better,” he said. “We always have fun but this has just been elevated. It’s gone from A-plus to A-plus-plus.”

Of the various instruments he plays throughout the show — from the keyboard to the guitar — his favorite, he said, is whichever one he happens to be holding at the moment.

He was equally non-committal when it came to which song was his favorite to perform, although he said he got an extra charge out of “Urgent” in which he plays the iconic sax solo.

“Playing the sax part in ‘Urgent’, on a tenor sax with this band … it is an e-ticket ride, I’m here to tell ya,” he said. “It’s one of the only sax songs that you see people miming, playing air sax, like air guitar.”

The opportunity to play that part is one the things that excited him most when he got the call the play with Foreigner.

Before joining Foreigner, Gimbel toured with Aerosmith from 1989 from about 1995. In 1993, he started performing with Foreigner as a sub for Scott Gilman, but then later rejoined in April 1995.

“And I couldn’t wait,” he said of joining the group. “To play the sax on ‘Urgent’ … I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, I felt so lucky.”

The multi-instrumentalist is originally from New Jersey but attended preparatory school in Massachusetts after which he enrolled in Berklee College of Music in Boston.

He said he was never happier or worked harder than when attending that school. However, he realized that as much as he loved jazz, rock music was truly his calling.

“I had always grown up with Elvis Presley and the Beatles, that was the stuff that made me jump around the room,” he said and emphasized that rock was his passion, that special thing he always urged people to pursue.

“It could be anything; it could be disco or classical or jazz or hip-hop, anything at all,” he said. “But if makes you jump around your room, that’s probably the thing that you really connect with so rock really did that for me — still does!

“Now, I jump around the stage.”

IF YOU GO 

FOREIGNER

The classic rock band will perform live.

WHEN 8 p.m. Wednesday

WHERE McAllen Performing Arts Center, 801 Convention Center Blvd., McAllen

COST Tickets start at $52 at ticketmaster.com