Cross Rhythms' Helen Whitall went to all of the UK and Ireland concerts by Californian rockers SWITCHFOOT. Here's what she saw and heard.
25th October 2017, Queen
Margaret Union, Glasgow
View: Front and centre, in front of Jon
My alarm rang at 5am and I headed off to Glasgow. This was my third time following Switchfoot on tour; it was also the first time I'd followed a UK and Ireland tour, and what has been blowing my mind since it was announced is that it comes within five months of their last visit. I have never known anything like this to happen.
The first venue was very small, and a little grimy, but in my experience that can make for a great show. I went to guitarist Drew Shirley's side of the stage, but as the venue filled I got pushed towards the centre. Whilst we waited I had great conversations with fellow fans. A band from Sheffield called the Alvarez Kings were supporting Switchfoot for the whole tour. They played good, catchy tunes with a lot of energy; their drummer was very good, twirling sticks as he played, the bassist lively, dancing around the stage, and they threw in a lot of nice harmonies.
Finally, the wait was over: It was Switchfoot time. They kicked off with the full electric version of "Hello Hurricane" (from the album of the same name), which they haven't played much for some time. Keeping the energy up, they went into "Stars" (from 'Nothing Is Sound'). Part way through, singer Jon Foreman climbed up onto the amps, then broke from the song to get the crowd singing "The Bonnie Banks O' Loch Lomond" (appropriate as they'd spent the day there), then jumped down and went into "500 Miles" by The Proclaimers. Well, that brought the house down! Jon barely knew much of the lyrics, but belted out as much of it as he could remember before just descending into "DAH DADA DAH!", the crowd laughing, jumping and filling in his singing. "Meant To Live" (from 'The Beautiful Letdown') followed, starting with an awesome intro jam on four guitars transitioning into the opening riff, which was passed around the band between their guitars, quite a dramatic effect. It was already getting sweaty, Jon pouring water over himself. Then he went into the crowd for "Bull In A China Shop" (from latest album 'Where The Light Shines Through') and worked the crowd from a railing at the back, holding a hand to balance himself. It was a lot of fun.
Bassist Tim Foreman kicked off "This Is Your Life" (from 'The Beautiful Letdown') with his powerful bass riff. Jon got everyone singing "Yeah!" with him as a call and response, and then as the ending of the song repeated the title question he picked out individuals in the crowd to direct that question to each time he sang it. Drew was improvising from start of "Your Love Is A Song" (from 'Hello Hurricane'). The solo began with a duet between Jon's harmonica and Drew's guitar, then Jon left Drew to it, and he gave us a really epic solo; there were some precious smiles between the guys. Jon introduced the band, and then "Where The Light Shines Through" (from the album of the same name). They started with a solo, throwing in complete pauses. Jon and Drew played a solo trading game with Jon playing a phrase and seeing how Drew would respond to it. It seemed like he was cheekily throwing him some weird ones for him to play with. And he again got the crowd singing "Yeah-eah-eahhhh!" in response. This song really is incredible live. Clearly having fun, Jon introduced "Gone" (from 'The Beautiful Letdown') by throwing in the opening riff from "Chem6A" (from their 1997 debut album 'The Legend Of Chin'). There was much forgetting of lyrics; he got the crowd to help with the first verse, holding up the mic stand to us, grinning, before taking back over and having no trouble with the rest of the song. They rocked up the ending with Jon climbing onto drummer Chad Butler's kick drum and jumping off. Bringing it back down, they played "Only Hope" (from 'A New Way To Be Human'), acoustic to begin with, with the band simply adding chilled ambience. They left out the second verse and went straight into a rocked up ending and transitioned straight into "I Won't Let You Go" (from 'Where The Light Shines Through'), which was sung with passion.
A short interlude of "The Shadow Proves The Sunshine" (from 'Nothing Is Sound') introduced "Love Alone Is Worth The Fight" (from 'Fading West'), and Jon again got everyone singing along. Then they played "If The House Burns Down Tonight" (from 'Where The Light Shines Through'), dedicating it to the firefighters who have saved their homes and communities many times. Jon spoke about the feeling of driving away from your home not knowing if it would be there when you return, and realising that the human souls there in the car with you are worth infinitely more than the material things left behind. "Dark Horses" (from 'Vice Verses') just rocked, and they ended with "When We Come Alive" (from 'Fading West'). For the encore they came back on to play "Float" (from 'Where The Light Shines Through'); Drew seemed to start in the wrong key but quickly adjusted. And oh the joy - they brought a bubble machine and disco ball with them! Of course Jon crowd-surfed and thanked us for his first proper surf since arriving here. "Live It Well" (from 'Where The Light Shines Through') followed, introduced as a California campfire song, Jon asking us to picture the scene. And they finished with "Dare You To Move" (from 'The Beautiful Letdown'), which was just gorgeous. Finally there was a proper encore, and they played "Where I Belong" (from 'Vice Verses'). Jon took my banner up on stage with him. I closed my eyes and just soaked in that earth shaking end yell like I was just receiving it. At the end there were emotional thanks from Drew, and the crowd carried on singing long after the lights went up. A joyful start to the tour. The sound was poor; the guitars were turned up extremely loud drowning out a lot of the vocals and Jerome Fontamillas' keys. But their stagecraft ad unbridles exuberance carried them through.
Afterwards a group of fans hung out and waited to see if there might be an aftershow. We were blessed and Jon did come out to us. There was much joking with him about the temperature ("You're cold?! I'm from San Diego!"). He played "Caroline" (from his 'Sunlight' EP), "Inheritance" (from his 'Dawn' EP), "24" (from 'The Beautiful Letdown') and "Your Love Is Strong" (from his 'Spring' EP). We got back at 1:30am, in time for not nearly enough sleep before getting back on the early morning train back to Bristol.
26th October 2017, Anson
View: Front left, in front of Tim
I may have questioned my own sanity at 6:30am that morning but Switchfoot well and truly proved to me once and for all that they are worth travelling for.
They opened with "If The House Burns Down Tonight" and however unsure I'd previously been about this song as an opener, this time it was an absolutely awesome, flawless start and the sound was pretty much perfect. Then they played "Stars", and with so much energy! Jon introduced Tim as his little brother, saying, "This means this is a family event, we're all family here tonight"; it certainly felt like it. The energy continued to ramp up as they went into "Dark Horses". Funnily, for the "made my mistakes" line Jon wasn't at the mic like he almost forgot he needed it. But they rocked hard, even adding a bit of a solo. They turned it up even more, playing "Bull In A China Shop" to the delight of my friends, Jon venturing into the crowd, balancing on a rail and sending everyone wild. By this point I was enjoying this show as much as I had any of my previous favourite shows. The sound, volume, setlist, crowd, Jon's interaction and the level of energy and quality of singing and playing from Switchfoot was combining into a perfect storm of happiness. But it carried on getting better.
Drew's improvised solo in "Your Love Is A Song" was dazzling as ever. That led into "Love Alone Is Worth The Fight" which Jon introduced saying, "I'm obsessed with the idea that love is the anti-entropy. In a world where everything's falling apart, lose yourself with everything to gain." The crowd were really into it. And then they played "Healer Of Souls" (from 'Where The Light Shines Through'), which I had requested earlier! He asked the band what key it was in, but there was no question he knew how to play it. They were so good, all solos and yelling. And then "Oh! Gravity" (from the album of the same name). The energy surely couldn't get any higher? I found myself jumping and yelling with total abandon. Before I actually spontaneously combusted they changed pace a little, playing "Hello Hurricane" acoustically; they had brought with them a new "fancy" mic for the purpose, better designed for picking up their acoustic performance than their usual vocal mics. They brought Chad to the front, which got a cheer. The new mic sounded great, a whole different sound quality that was really nice. And from there they went into "I Won't Let You Go". Jon sounded so good and Tim's bass was shaking the floor! And then something really special happened; Jon said that on this tour they wanted to honour the UK's rich musical heritage by playing a song from each city they visited, and tonight they played "Teardrop" by Massive Attack. It was a stunning performance. The sound reverberated around the room and right through me. "Teardrop" led right into "Where I Belong"; I just let the music sweep me away and found myself crying happy tears.
I expected this to be the end of the show, but no sooner had that almighty yell faded they suddenly went into "Meant To Live". Wow! That was the end, but of course there was an encore, and they came back on and again played "Float". It was so much fun, I danced as crazily as ever, enjoying the bubble party, and there was some wonderful chaos when Jon attempted to crowd-surf but disastrously picked the wrong part of the crowd and discovered that gravity did exist after all. He made it back onto the stage nonetheless, and I helped him back up. They incorporated a snatch of "Hope Is The Anthem" (from 'Where The Light Shines Through') into "Live It Well", and then finished me off with "Dare You To Move", again rocking out in happy tears to stop my legs giving way and finishing up draped over the barrier, absolutely wowed!
It was the best show I've ever seen. It was a synergy of all the right elements that made it an incredibly powerful experience. It was very, very special.
27th October 2017, Academy,
View: Front and centre, in front of Jon
I saw dolphins from the ship as I journeyed to Eire. I arrived in Ireland for the first time as the sun was setting and got to the show just in time; my friends had got me a spot centre stage; I'd honestly thought I would be at the back for a change. The venue was a smart, black-painted club, picked out in red light but inside it was absolutely freezing.
This time Switchfoot opened with "The Sound" (from 'Hello Hurricane'), a powerful way to kick off. As he's done previously, Jon added a section calling out "Let justice roll down..!", and ended with a drum jump. "Stars" followed, and then "Dark Horses"; things were literally starting to warm up! They then went into "Your Love Is A Song"; this time Drew's solo started out quite understated, but then he got creative with it before suddenly hitting epic. He continued soloing underneath the remains of the song but in harmony with it, in a way I've not heard before - truly an amazing guitarist! On the second "eyes wide open" section they stripped right back to Jon on acoustic guitar before the whole band came back in. Jon got in the crowd for "Bull In A China Shop" and there was much hat swapping. He nicked a phone to film with and stood on rail at the back working the crowd, whilst Drew threw in another awesome solo. Still in the crowd Jon started everyone off singing "When We Come Alive". He went back and forth through the crowd through pretty much the entire song, people taking selfies with him the whole time, and he ended back on stage holding the mic stand high and getting the crowd to sing. And then they played "Oh! Gravity". This time there was a full blown jam session in the middle, Jon soloing with Chad. Tim almost knocked the mic stand over, resulting in lots of amused smiles between him and Jon at the irony of gravity, and smiles and hugs between them as they played. And Jerome's piano crash solo was spectacular. Jon introduced "I Won't Let You Go", saying "This is about a love that won't let go, the transcendent love of the Maker himself." They followed this with "Hello Hurricane", played acoustically around the "fancy mic". Some girls in the crowd provided nice backing vocals throughout.
The sound at this show wasn't the best; it's hard to put a finger on what exactly was wrong but it just wasn't coming over at its best somehow. But this acoustic song sounded lovely on the different mic. For tonight's cover, the guys chose to play "The Boys Are Back In Town" - and they were clearly having a lot of fun. Drew told us a funny story at the start about how he was really into Wham as a kid and bought a tape, but his big brother literally knifed it to the wall and told him he should listen to Thin Lizzy instead! Jon said, "Let's hear it for Drew's big brother y'all! He could've ended up in a Wham cover band!" And then they played "If The House Burns Down Tonight" and began "Where I Belong" by singing snatches of the second verse over the introductory chords, so skipped it in the actual song. And then again they closed with "Meant To Live". Jerome came right to the front leading on rhythm guitar whilst Jon and Drew passed the riff between them. He actually rocked rhythm at front most the way through, at one point going back and playing the keys at the same time. Bizarrely the crowd responded with "ohley ohleyohleyohley." Again Switchfoot played "Float", "Live It Well" and "Dare You To Move". Jon went into the crowd again during "Float" and came up by me; I had to help lift him back onto the barrier. The venue was cleared immediately after that, and Jon tweeted no aftershow, so we decided to go straight back for some much needed sleep. In spite of the somewhat ropey sound, that show had a real party atmosphere.
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