Switchfoot’s “Looking For America” tour came to the Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco, CA. It was the 50th show together for the band and their supporting act Relient K. Starting their tour at the House of Blues in Houston, TX on Sept 17th, the bands had a crazy schedule, zig-zagging their way through 30 of the 48 continguous US states in just 71 days. Not a lot of time to rest between sets. But, as lead singer, Jon Foreman, put it to the audience that night, “We went out looking for America and I think we found it!” I think they’ve found more than that, though. I believe they’ve found a solid audience that appreciates their brand of music which is both spiritual and main-stream. Labelled early on as a Christian rock group, Switchfoot began to distance themselves from that designation. Foreman, in a Boston Globe interview from 2004, mentioned that “Calling us ‘Christian rock’ tends to be a box that closes some people out and excludes them, and that’s not what we’re trying to do. Music has always opened my mind—and that’s what we want”. Their audience is thus quite diverse. Some that I spoke to felt that since they are a successful, cross-over group, Switchfoot’s message can be heard by more people.
Nearly 3000 fans heard the two bands play their hearts out at the Masonic on Saturday night. Relient K, the name taken and altered from the Plymouth car owned by guitarist Matt Hoopes, went on first. Their stage included the musicians among a white, stand-up piano, a broken trumpet, and a large white buffalo. Really. It was cool. The boys made their way through 19 songs, spanning 9 albums and one cover, in just over an hour to resounding applause and audience singing as you rarely hear these days. With chants of “One more song, one more song!” coming at the end of the band’s break, they came out for a few more favorites. They ended their set, with help from Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman, by playing ‘Deathbed’ from the 2007 album Five Score and Seven Years Ago.
With about a 40 minute gap between sets, the roadies took to removing the buffalo, the piano, and the horn, and set up a quite stripped down stage for Switchfoot. Their simplicity in presentation, though, was no indication that their music was, as well. The audience was in for quite a ride. The boys of Switchfoot are originally from San Diego, CA and are surfers for life, but their music should not be branded as “surfer music” as in The Beach Boys or Jan & Dean. They play straight ahead rock in the strains of Foo Fighters, Nickleback, and The Fray. As the lights came down a short black & white video played on one screen along with a countdown on another. After reaching “0”, the video seemed to go crazy then went black. Bright back lights lit up the stage as the ever present fog rolled in, then the players emerged from the sides of the stage to begin their blistering version of ‘Holy Water’. No straying too far from the song list they created for this tour, Switchfoot did switch it up a bit from the third song on. They threw in a few rarities on this tour like ‘Oh! Gravity’, ‘Gone’, ‘Your Love is Strong’ (a Jon Foreman song), and ‘Only Hope’.
Midway though the set Foreman decided to go out into the audience. They may not have expected it, but I’m sure the crowd was hoping for it as they received him into their realm. The lead singer really knows and trusts his audience well as he navigated solo through the adoring fans toward the back, singing the whole way. As he rose above them and finished the song, he announced he’d just “start the next one from back here!” And so he did. Foreman then worked his way through the crowd towards the stage, arriving at the barricade with awaiting fans ready to lift him up. And so they did.
Next was something special for the audience. The band is involved in a number of charities that help many people in the community through music, art, sport, and education. One such individual they helped is Brianne “Breezy” Bochenek, a young woman, cancer survivor, amputee, and Paralympics hopeful. They brought her out to sing their song ‘Only Hope’, which Foreman declared was only the second time she had sung it on stage, the first was at sound-check earlier that day. From the first note until the last she was mesmerizing. She made it her song and everyone there believed it was when she was done. After they hugged and she began to walk off, Foreman mentioned that if she could stick around she could just sing the rest of the songs. It might have been too much for her, but judging by the audience’s approval they would not have minded at all.
They took it up a few notches from that point on, starting with smoking versions of ‘If the House Burns Down Tonight’, the powerful ‘The Sound (John M. Perkins’ Blues)/Looking for America’, then transitioned into ‘Where I Belong’. It seemed as if they were putting all three into a theme of their take on where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re going. Foreman brought out a flag of California with the words “Where I Belong” written across it, using it as a banner, their answer to where they belong. Following a short break in the 15 song night, they reemerged to the awaiting crowd. As the last three songs started, Foreman unveiled a half upside-down “disco ball” that spun and reflected light throughout the venue in spectacular fashion. It was cool. Then as the song ‘Float’ was going along they unleashed floating bubbles into the audience. He then decided to return to the realm of the audience and was passed around until he made a final return to the stage. The fans were not only treated to his return to them, but Relient K stepped out on stage, returning to help them with ‘Live it Well’. Switchfoot was then left to play one last song. Most bands keep you hanging on till the end for that one song you really want to hear. Maybe ‘Dare You to Move’ was that song, as it has well over 17 million views on youtube. It’s that familiar thing that once we get it, we feel complete. It was a great way to end the show.
As they continue “Looking for America” they’ll do 7 more shows in 7 states, from Dec. 2 through Dec 10. After an extended break Switchfoot starts up again January 21 with 6 dates in California alone. They head north for more US dates, plus a few in Canada, before ending up in New York on Feb 18th. Perhaps they’ll find you as they are Looking for America.
Founded in San Diego, CA in 1996, by Jon Foreman, his brother/bass player Tim Foreman, and drummer Chad Butler. Switchfoot released three independent records before its breakthrough album, 2003’s The Beautiful Letdown, which was certified multi-Platinum. In 2001 they added Jerome Fontamillas – synthesizers, accordion, keyboard, rhythm guitar, backing vocals, and in 2005 added Drew Shirley – lead guitar, backing vocals. They have been together bringing it to their fans as this five-piece group ever since. Another rarity in today’s music scene!
Meant to Live
Gone (with “Chem 6A” intro)
Where the Light Shines Through
I Won’t Let You Go
Your Love Is Strong (Jon Foreman song)
Love Alone Is Worth the Fight
If the House Burns Down Tonight
The Sound (John M. Perkins’ Blues) / Looking for America
Where I Belong
Live It Well (with Relient K)
Dare You to Move
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