9/30/2013 4:10:00 PM Foreigner: Versatile Gimbel reflects on 20 years with the band, playing Stargazer Pavilion Oct. 5
This Saturday, rock icons Foreigner will play at Cliff Castle Casino’s Stargazer Pavilion. Pictured are the members of Foreigner, from left, Michael Bluestein (keyboards), Mick Jones (lead guitar), Kelly Hansen (lead vocals), Tom Gimbel (saxophone, keyboards, flute, rhythm guitar) and Jeff Pilson (bass guitar). Courtesy photo by Bill Bernstein.
For close to 20 years, Tom Gimbel has been Foreigner’s jack-of-all-trades, playing guitar, flute, saxophone and keyboards, and providing backing vocals. Courtesy photo.
CAMP VERDE - From Pete Townsend to Terry Kath to the Smothers Brothers, it seems logical that a man who plays many instruments would have a varied list of musical tastes.
For almost 20 years, Tom Gimbel has been Foreigner's jack-of-all-trades, playing guitar, flute, saxophone and keyboards, and providing backing vocals.
"Like the shortstop, I cover all the bases," Gimbel says. "Versatility is my strong suit. I even play limited lead guitar."
Foreigner has written some of rock 'n' roll's most well known songs, such as "Feels Like The First Time," "Head Games," "Juke Box Hero," "Long, Long Way From Home," "Say You Will" and "Urgent." With 16 Top-30 hit songs and 10 multi-platinum albums, Foreigner has recorded and toured the world for close to 40 years. The band's musical library continues to inspire sold-out tours and more than 75 million album sales.
At 8 p.m. Saturday, Foreigner will play at Cliff Castle Casino Hotel's Stargazer Pavilion. Though Gimbel has traveled the world, this is the first time he has been to the Verde Valley.
"We're excited to have Foreigner at the Stargazer Pavilion," says James Perry, advertising and production supervisor for Cliff Castle Casino Hotel. "Guests from all over Arizona will have an opportunity to see true rock legends under the stars."
Though Gimbel is the only member of his family to have pursued music as a career, he says that music has always been in his family's blood.
"The whole family played," Gimbel says. "My mom played piano. And she never had any lessons. But she could read music. A neighbor once showed her where middle C was. My brother was a trumpet player. And my sisters played classical piano. That drove us crazy!"
Gimbel says he always knew that he would have a life in music.
"It was always clear cut what I was going to do," Gimbel says. "I remember being in kindergarten, singing a Johnny Cash song. What a feeling! Then when I heard Chuck Berry, I was a goner!"
Without saying it, having a family of such diverse musicians rubbed off on Gimbel, who describes his style as bluesy.
"The blues had a baby, and they named it rock 'n' roll," Gimbel says. "Elvis, Chuck Berry, the Beatles, James Brown, that stuff knocked us out!"
Gimbel remembers a different way of being knocked out at his audition with Foreigner.
"They knew I had toured with Aerosmith. So they didn't feel that they needed to audition me," Gimbel says. "We talked at a hotel. That was the audition. It was hang time."
After the initial meeting, things did not really change.
"For our first full rehearsal, as soon as Mick [Jones] and Lou [Gramm] walked in, everyone else was ready," Gimbel says. "They asked us, 'Is everyone here? Let's go to lunch!'
"These guys are very passionate about the hang," Gimbel says. "Mick's looking for family people. He says the music will benefit by it.
"The way the band plays together and fits together is incredible," Gimbel adds. "I feel like we're now in the golden age. We feel very fortunate and grateful for all the aspects of Foreigner. That kind of commitment is because of the passion. What I feel is what I play. Hopefully, I bring a little passion to it."
After decades of recording and touring, Gimbel says it never gets tiring.
"The reward is the connection with the audience," Gimbel says. "Rock music has that rambunctious rebel yell for people like us. That's the part that connects with me. We're not pretending. It's for real. What you see is what you get."
Gates open at 7 p.m. Ticket prices range from $35 to $60 and are available online at http://www.cliffcastlecasinohotel.com, or through the Castle Club at (928) 567-7999. Cliff Castle Casino Hotel and Stargazer Pavilion are located at 555 Middle Verde Road in Camp Verde.