Fans gathered at the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland on Saturday for alt-rockers Switchfoot. It was the second night of a 48-city tour for the band, which recently released an EP to promote their upcoming full-length album, due for release in January.
The Midland was transformed into a movie theater because the band showed their documentary, “Fading West,” before they played before the crowd of all ages in a unique set. The band paused between songs to answer questions tweeted to them after the movie viewing during a 20-minute intermission.
The documentary displayed the band’s struggle with leaving their families behind as they hit the waves in popular surfing destinations such as Bali, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and San Diego. It was an interesting scope into the private lives of a band that’s about to release their ninth studio album, has won a Grammy, and has families including small children at home.
The film focuses particularly on lead singer Jon Foreman, whose daughter needed surgery while the group was in Australia. The action started to stall a bit, at least for myself, as the focus remained on the personal lives and the trials each member faced in leaving their family behind.
The documentary would quickly shift back to the surfing, which helps the band members hit the reset button after 17 years together. It helped paint the picture of who the members are and what they’re about. The surfing action included legendary surfers such as Tom Corren and Rob Machado, and showcases enough surfing to rival movies like “Point Break” and “The Lords of Dogtown.”
In a phone interview the week before the show, guitarist Drew Shirley said the film was a chance to show their fans a behind-the-scenes look at what the group likes to do and what inspires them.
“It’s a storytellers-type documentary,” he said. “It will show the fans how songs are written and what we do when we are looking for inspiration.”
As the credits rolled, the film itself received a rousing ovation from the fans. I saw people old enough to be my grandparents, and young enough to be my children. To say it was a mixed crowd would be an understatement. I was really looking forward to the show after seeing where these guys were coming from. Family is really important to me and it’s tough being a measly three hours away from them, so I really related to the band members being around the world looking for inspiration while their families were days away.
My experience with Switchfoot going in to the concert was limited to a couple of their songs such as “Meant to Live.” I was in for a surprise.
Lyrically, the music is like a motivational speech wrapped up into every song. The song “Dare to Move” reminded me of the opening credits to a 90s teen sitcom like “Dawson’s Creek” or something similar. It was a bit more pop-y than I’d like, but seeing how it impacted so many people made it deeper.
The band was all about getting the crowd involved as well. Foreman commanded the crowd, getting them clapping in rhythm or singing along throughout the set. Another special part of the show that Shirley had given me a heads up about was the crowd questions.
Sporadically throughout the set, the band would stop playing and pull questions from the earlier tweets and introduce the crowd member that asked. The band members would answer the questions all together or individually, depending on the question, really giving their fans an in-depth look at the inner workings and experiences of the group.
One thing that really stood out to me was Foreman’s willingness to climb through the crowd as he sang. Early in the set he came through the seats up front and high fived and shook hands with fans, myself included. Later he went deeper into the crowd and sat on a railing and waved one arm as he sang, and the crowd followed suit.
Throughout the show, Shirley, Foreman and bassist Tim Foreman, Jon’s brother, consistently changed instruments, giving fans different versions of songs, which included several acoustic songs and a version of “Hello Hurricane” where the group crowded around one microphone and played the song using an acoustic guitar, snare drum, an accordion, harmonica and tambourine. They also played an acoustic version of “Meant To Live” that had the crowd cheering the loudest they had all night.
Toward the end of the show, Foreman thanked the crowd and they walked off stage only to return about 30 seconds later. I thought it was the quickest turnaround for an encore I had ever seen. But I was in for a treat. Foreman prompted the crowd to sing along and then joined them with his mic stand.
While they played I couldn’t help but think that their music reminded me of those end of season montages on network TV. You know, the ones that recap where all the characters are now. I had goosebumps; it was a pleasant surprise. Foreman again thanked the crowd afterward and the band departed.
As the fans chanted “one more song,” the venue played radio music so I considered the show over. People around me started leaving so I waited for my photographer, Andrew Mather, to rejoin me in our designated seats. Another minute or so went by and the group came back for that ultra-rare encore encore.
“We gonna do this again?” Foreman asked as he stepped up to the mic. The crowd cheered and those that hadn’t quite made it out returned to their seats or filled the aisles as the band played “Dark Horses.” This was the song I had waited for. Choppy riffs and a bit heavier than most of the music they had played, I bobbed my head to the beat.
I was nervous for this show. Most people that I talked to about it warned me about the “Christian” band Switchfoot. I expected a lot of proselytizing during the show but they only mentioned praying once. And it’s not that I dislike Christians or anything, but I do tend to avoid that type of music. Although I do consider groups like Flyleaf among those I like, I knew Switchfoot was a bit more pop-y than I tend to enjoy. But giving them a shot and especially seeing them live with the documentary to get me up to speed, I was pleasantly surprised by their show and their music.
To see an extended gallery of Andrew Mather’s pictures, click here.