It's not every day that three legendary rock acts join forces for a summer tour. Foreigner, Styx and former Eagles guitarist Don Felder have decided to do just that, coming together for a three-month Soundtrack of Summer Tour across the U.S.
Combined, the groups have sold more than 250 million albums and have provided the world with countless classic rock anthems from "Renegade" to "Juke Box Heroes" to the iconic "Hotel California."
The rockers will stop at Charter Amphitheatre at Heritage Park in Simpsonville on May 30. Don Felder will open the show, followed by Styx and closing with Foreigner.
"It's going so great," said Foreigner multi-instrumentatlist Tom Gimbel about the tour. "We were in rehearsals and setting up and going, 'This is going to be a lot of fun.' Now we're out here after the eighth or ninth show and saying, 'This is so much fun!' "
Touring is nothing new for Gimbel. In 1989 he was asked to join and tour with Aerosmith before he left to play guitar and sax for Foreigner in 1992. From the way Gimbel tells it -- excitedly and with discernible joy in his voice -- the decades on the road have been nothing short of fantastic. The Soundtrack of Summer Tour is no exception, he said.
"It's incredible. The combination, starting with Don Felder, and Styx, our good buddies for so many years, it's just a natural combination and people just love it," he said.
Lowcountry Current spoke with Gimbel about the tour, the groups' re-recording of "Hotel California," and how Styx, Foreigner and Felder like to golf on their days off from playing music.
Question. What's been the best part of the summer tour so far?
Gimbel. The way the bands all get along. That's not always a given on a major tour with multiple bands. These are three big name acts. You're never quite sure how the mix is going to settle and this has been tremendous. We started off with a big dinner with everyone there and right out of the gate it's been nothing but goodwill between the bands. Now that we know each other, it's even nicer. It's nice to meet new people. Meeting Don and getting to know him, too. That's a big highlight for us.
Q. Foreigner and Styx toured together in 2010, but you've never toured with Don Felder. What was it like meeting him?
Gimbel. I'd seen him play on TV and YouTube and I remember thinking, "This is a real guitar player's guitar player." There's so much finesse and style there. And when you see him live it comes across even more. It's just magnificent to see that kind of mastery of the guitar. He's part of our sonic background. Those Eagles songs, with those woven guitar parts, so many people grow up hearing that on the radio.
Q. Before the tour started, people were asking if you guys would be doing any on-stage collaborations. Has that been happening?
Gimbel. Just a little bit. Tommy Shaw comes out and does "Hotel California" with Don Felder. So far that's the only thing. We'll see if it grows from there. It's not always easy to do because you're trying to get ready when the other band is playing. I would say the very least, as we get toward the end of the tour, absolutely, yes, we're going to see some of that.
You guys recorded a CD together for the tour. What was that process like?
Gimbel: It's a collaboration version of "Hotel California" where everyone has a segment. There's a Foreigner segment and a Styx segment and Mick Jones plays guitar with Don Felder and Tommy Shaw. It's really a nice collaboration and it's the title track for the CD. Then we all have portions of our studio albums that we put together to make a compilation. So people can hear the songs they heard at the show. It's like a memento.
Q. Are you big fans of each others' songs? What are your favorite Eagles and Styx songs?
Gimbel. Well, it's hard to pick a favorite. I tend not to stack songs against each other. But off the top of my head, at the beginning of "Hotel California," Don Felder brings out a double-neck guitar. That really sets the tone. So I'll pick that one for Don Felder.
Styx has so many incredible songs. One of my favorites is "Too Much Time On My Hands." Oh and "Blue Collar Man." That song just thumps.
Q. You play multiple instruments. Do you have a favorite?
Gimbel. If I had to pick one I would say voice. It's the most natural, organic instrument. You're using your body as your instrument. It's tough to beat that in terms of range of expression. I think saxophone is very close to singing. A lot of times we try to imagine words while we're playing the sax. That helps us play more in a sentence instead of a paragraph.
Q. Your Foreigner bio says you are a certified golf instructor. Have you ever taught lessons?
Gimbel. Yeah, I've given a lot of lessons. I love to teach. People think that golf is tough, but it doesn't have to be. With all the advances in modern technology and the analysis you can do now, they've got it boiled down to a science. It's a lot simpler to teach and to learn.
I'd always been into golf. When we were kids, we used to caddy for our parents. They thought golf was an excuse to party (laughs). It was a different era back then; people combined the two. There were these Bob Hope people that made golf into a funny thing. Even the big stars were very flamboyant, throwing their golf clubs in the air and falling on their knees and stuff. My parents were both comedians, so they really tore it up on the golf course. Through it all we ended up learning a little bit. My parents sent us to golf camps. I started playing in tournaments and once I got certified to be an instructor, I really learned the inside information on golf.
Q. Do you get much time to play while touring?
Gimbel. We're starting to. Now that everything is settling in. The drummer Chris Frazier and I were out there on the course yesterday and we had a fantastic time. As summer approaches, I think there's going to be more golf. The Styx guys are way into it; Felder plays also. There's already been a couple of outings and I'm sure there's going to be lots more.
Q. Have you ever played on Hilton Head Island?
Gimbel. I think so. I'm trying to remember, yes, we played a beautiful place there. It's a harbor, right? We got our picture and everything! (Joking) There was a photographer there and as I was breaking a club over my knee he said, "You want to get a picture?" Sure!
Q. You have been in the music business for many years now. What do you think it is about the music that Foreigner, Styx and the Eagles did that made it so enduring and still so well liked after so much time?
Gimbel. Well, there's probably a few different reasons for each individual band. My theory for Foreigner is that you have this British rock base coming from Mick Jones and this soulful rock singing over the top of it from Lou Gramm. That is a hybrid that I think is sort of unique. Mick Jones and Lou Gramm were both master songwriters. So there is so much quality woven into these songs and heartfelt emotion in a lot of cases, and those are the things that stand up over time. Also, Mick knew how to make these records so they wouldn't be overbearing. When you're more understated like that, you have a better chance of holding up for the ages.
It's incredible, because not only do people love it from the past, but we're getting more and more new generations of kids and young adults saying, "We like this music." We've got three generations (at the shows) sometimes. We've got little kids on their parents' shoulders that know the words to our songs. They're high-fiving our singer, taking selfies with him. It's crazy!
Q. After the summer tour, what's next for Foreigner?
Gimbel. We're just going to keep going and finish out the year, touring up until the holiday season. After this wraps up for the summer tour, we are going to go back to Europe for some acoustic dates. And then we'll do different parts of the world and the U.S. There's no stopping us. Can't slow down. No end in sight.
Follow reporter Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.