WATERTOWN — The success of the band Foreigner isn’t a foreign concept for longtime member Jeff Pilson.
“It’s one of those chemical reactions, where things happen beyond just the personnel,” Mr. Pilson said Tuesday afternoon from Evansville, Ind., where the band performed that evening at the Old National Events Plaza. “The sum is greater than the individual parts of the whole.”
With 10 multi-platinum albums and 16 Top 30 hits, Foreigner continues to propel sold-out tours. Of its seven current members, one, guitarist and vocalist Mick Jones, is from the original 1976 lineup. He and Lou Gramm created such hits as “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Feels Like the First Time,” “Cold as Ice” and “Long, Long Way From Home.”
Foreigner will perform at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Watertown Fairgrounds Arena as part of the annual Car-Freshner/FX Caprara Honda of Watertown Concert Series presented by the Disabled Persons Action Organization.
Mr. Pilson joined the band in 2004. He also produced Foreigner’s 2005 CD “Live in ’05” and tracks off the band’s “No End in Sight” album of 2008.
Previously, he was a member of heavy metal bands Dokken, Dio and MSG. He’s primarily known for his bass guitar work, but he also plays guitar and keyboards.
He jumped at the opportunity to join Foreigner.
“I’ve always thought their music was amazing,” Mr. Pilson said. “And when I went to play, it was an immediate chemistry. Mick Jones and I had a lot of chemistry together, as did everybody in the band. Between the chemistry of the band, the music and personnel, it’s a wonderful gig to have.”
But the main reason for success is the quality of their music, Mr. Pilson said.
“We go out there and kick it every night,” he said. “We give 150 percent and have an amazing catalog of music. It resonates with people. And when you have a very dedicated band, with high quality musicianship and performance capabilities, we want to take it to the next level every night, and we do. We have great audiences right there with us. It all makes for an amazing show.”
A highlight of their concerts is working with local youth choirs around the country. For about a decade, the band has invited a singing group of youths on stage to help out with its biggest hit, “I Want to Know What Love Is” from 1984.
A contest in each community selects the choir. In July, Achoired Pitches, a select choir at Massena High School, was informed by band management it had won the contest after “many” entries were reviewed. Choirs that entered the contest had to send in a video of them singing, “I Want to Know What Love Is.”
The band also donates $500 to choirs that sing with them on stage.
“That’s something that’s very dear to our hearts,” Mr. Pilson said. “I’m a product of public school music education. With the funding issues happening these days in schools, one of the first things to go is the music program. It’s great to be able to help their choir and the music program. And when they come out om stage, the energy you get by watching these kids in phenomenal.”
KEEPING IT FRESH
Foreigner may have been around for more than three decades, but it continues to add fresh elements to its act. For example, from Jan. 16 to 18, Foreigner will perform in Nashville with the Nashville Symphony.
The band is also no stranger to classical music. In 2018, Billboard reported that it debuted at No. 1 on both the Classical Albums and Classical Crossover Albums charts with “Foreigner With the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra & Chorus.”
“It’s amazing how this music can translate into different formats,” Mr. Pilson said.
For a week early next year and in April, Foreigner will headline a residency show at the Venetian Resort Las Vegas.
“We’re hoping that really works because how great would it be to stay in one place for at least two weeks at a time?” Mr. Pilson said. “It’s a chance to reach out to an even wider audience; something we’ve always looking to do.”
In October, the band will release its “Double Vision: Then and Now” album. The accompanying film had its premiere in July on DirectTV 4K Ultra HD U-Verse.
“We got together with the guys from the original band,” Mr. Pilson said of the “Double Vision” project. “We got up and did some songs, they got up and did some songs and at the end of the night we all got together to play the last two songs together.”
The concert was recorded at Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant, Mich.
“How many bands are able to put aside their differences or whatever it was and get up with both incarnations of the band?” Mr. Pilson said. “It’s fun hearing the new band and old band together. It works wonderfully.”