Foreigner bassist Jeff Pilson has a vivid memory of playing “the sombrero,” aka Tampa Stadium, back in June of ‘88. In those days Pilson was part of metal outfit Dokken, who was out on tour with Kingdom Come, Scorpions, icons Van Halen and a young band named Metallica.
“We were on the Monsters of Rock tour, and it was about 105 degrees in Tampa, but it was just raining like crazy. I remember that the rain actually felt hot.” Pilson said while calling the Tribune from New York. “That was a lot of fun.”
Florida rain and heat won’t be a problem when Foreigner plays within the comfortable confines of Ruth Eckerd Hall on May 20. The band was in New York Tuesday to announce a co-headlining tour with Styx and former Eagle’s guitarist Don Felder on “Fox and Friends.” The three teamed up to debut a new version of “Hotel California” on the morning show, part of a compilation that will be sold at the Soundtrack of Summer Tour stops.
Pilson, who has played with Foreigner since its 2004 reformation, said it’s the right time to hit the road. Last year marked their best album sales since the ‘80s, with Foreigner outselling the back catalogs of classic rock giants AC/DC, The Rolling Stones and The Eagles. There was an uptick in digital singles sales, too, perhaps due to a younger audience discovering songs such as “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Jukebox Hero” and “Feels Like the First Time.”
“Those songs represent a part of people’s lives for a certain generation, and they still have the same effect today. Some of it is nostalgia, but when you have (Foreigner) songs on “Glee” and in “Guitar Hero,” you have a lot of young people getting into classic rock, and us,” Pilson said.
Foreigner, like a long list of other classic rock bands, continues under the same name, but with an almost completely different lineup. Singer Kelly Hansen has taken over for Lou Gramm, the original vocalist on all of the band’s iconic hits, while guitarist and songwriter Mick Jones remains as the only intact founding member. Three years ago they teamed with another band who replaced its famous frontman, Journey, and ended up selling out venues across the U.S.
“We’re still doing great business, so there’s one reason,” Pilson said, responding to a question about those who criticize the practice. “Really, in a case like Foreigner it’s about the music more than anything else. It’s not like we’re Motley Crue where the personalities outweigh the music. When it’s all about the music, it’s about how good the band is, and we can deliver, every single night of the year.”
Tickets for the Ruth Eckerd Hall date will be $85, $105 and $135 and go on sale at noon Saturday. A VIP package with dinner, valet parking and premium seating will be $200.