Bassist Jeff Pilson acknowledged upfront that, even with a film appearance to his credit, he’s no actor. Then he quickly added that, though actor Tom Cruise boasts perhaps only one makeshift concert to his credit, he’s quite the arena rocker.
“I thought he did an amazing job singing,” said Pilson, 53, a member of classic rock group Foreigner for the past eight years, speaking by phone from his home north of Los Angeles. “I was very pleasantly surprised.”
He referred to Cruise’s over-the-top take as a fading lead singer in the movie “Rock of Ages,” this year’s movie musical looking back at the 1980s rock scene. The movie’s soundtrack featured three of Foreigner’s big tunes. Pilson has seen the movie once and the Broadway production twice.
“I personally enjoyed the stage production even more than the movie,” he said.
He, like many others, also has seen the stage and film effort put the 36-year-old Foreigner in a whole new spotlight among young music fans, thanks to the inclusion of hits
“I Want to Know What Love Is” and “Waiting For a Girl Like You” in the productions.
So Pilson and the rest of Foreigner, including founder and only remaining original member Mick Jones, expect to see plenty of newer followers when they headline the annual Rock the Park concert Aug. 18 at Columbus’ Mill Race Park.
Pilson, a former member of 1980s metal band Dokken, explained Foreigner’s lasting popularity easily.
“It’s the power of the songs,” Pilson said. “These are just great, timeless songs. And they’ve kind of become part of the mainstream consciousness now — enough so that they still really relate to people.”
And the tunes still sell, including a 2011 three-disc, greatest hits style re-release, “Feels Like the First Time.”
By late 2011, album sales were at their highest since the ‘80s, and Foreigner outperformed 2011 catalog sales of AC/DC, The Eagles and The Rolling Stones, according to foreigneronline.com, the band’s official site.
That kind of popularity got the attention of the Columbus Area Arts Council, the agency organizing Rock the Park in its fifth year. Arts council program director Tami Sharp noted the group’s 14 Top 20 singles.
“Each year we look for bands that have household name recognition,” Sharp said. “We chose Foreigner because they have a fan base that goes back three decades ... and now the younger generation knows them from playing (the video game) ‘Guitar Hero.’”
For the Columbus performance, Pilson guessed the band will present at least one acoustic version of one of its better-known songs.
Also, its presentation of “I Want To Know What Love Is” will feature the backing of a choir of Columbus North and Columbus East High School students.
“People should expect a lot of energy and a lot of singing along in a fun show,” Pilson said.
He asserts that he knows what he’s talking about when he mentions enjoyment. He thought he had fun in his younger years of success, but says the present feels different indeed.
“When you’re older, you get past all the pitfalls,” Pilson said.
But, when you’re older and traveling with Foreigner, you never get past fans with deep sentiment — and memories of high school and college evenings of ... well, young romance.
Beyond music, Pilson’s love of his life, wife Ravinder, enjoy their 8-year-old daughter, Olivia.
“She’s the most magical thing I’ve ever seen,” he said.
He said that makes it tougher to be away some 200 days a year. But that is the price of promoting the rock of ages.
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