Switchfoot is no longer your tweenager’s band.
The San Diego based five-some played to a packed house at the claustrophobic and suffocating Crystal Ballroom on Thursday in Portland. Previous gigs were dominated by doe-eyed 13-, 14- and 15-year olds but not anymore. Yes, the band still carries some weight with the younger crowd but Switchfoot now has a loyal following among those in their 20s, 30s and even 40s.
Many fans have indeed grown up with the band and based on Thursday’s performance Switchfoot has grown up too.
The band blazed through a 14-song set balanced with an array of lights and even a three-screen video back drop which is perhaps a decided move towards a bigger and better rock show. Switchfoot, comprised of Jon Foreman (vocals, guitar), brother Tim Foreman (bass), Jerome Fontamillas (keyboards), Chad Butler (drums) and Drew Shirley (guitar), is currently touring their 8th album Vice Verses (now a year old) which is definitely their hardest and edgiest effort to date.
The band started off loud with “The Sound” then one of their best “Stars,” “The War Inside” and finally “Mess of Me” before slowing the tempo a bit with “This is Your Life” and the reflective “Restless.” The set featured seven songs from their latest album. “Dark Horses” will go down as one of Switchfoot’s best all-time songs and considering it’s a deep album cut it shows the strength of Vice Verses. The band played tight, sounded great and it must be said that Foreman has one of the most beautiful vocals in rock today.
The genius of Switchfoot is their ability and obvious desire to market their music to everyone. In a recent interview Jon Foreman said, “I want to sing to people that have faith the way I believe but I also want to sing to people that believe other things. Music is a conversation.” Originally marketed as a Christian band, Switchfoot definitely retains a strong Christian following, but the band is not a “Christian” rock outfit rather a rock band whose members are Christian. Switchfoot also doesn’t have that sound and tone so apparent with today’s faith-based records. It’s not until the listener dives below the surface of the lyrics that you find Switchfoot has a lot to say and it’s said well.
Remaining relevant in the current music scene is difficult enough and as Switchfoot gets older so will their fan base. Thus far they’ve accomplished what few bands can boast which is a broad range in age of their fans. But in today’s canned music world many of those rabid teen fans from five, even 10 years ago, have left what was cool back then – Switchfoot – and already moved on to whatever society has placed on the shelf and told them to buy.
The rest have remained true to the music, just as Switchfoot has.
Perhaps that explains why after so many solid albums Switchfoot has yet to take it to the next level. The Crystal is one of the worst venues in Portland (avoid the balcony at all costs!) yet they’ve played there for years and seem to have the muscle to break the ceiling and sell well at larger capacity theaters. For sure they are one of the few bands who genuinely seem to care about their fans and keeping concerts at smaller venues is a nice gesture but they have the talent and ability to step it up a notch.
Here’s hoping that Thursday’s show is reflective of the band’s desire to push themselves not only musically but also the stage show. Just as Switchfoot originally gained a following through their music back in the 90s, if the current live show is any indicator the crowds will hopefully keep coming for years to come.
Switchfoot Portland Setlist (Crystal Ballroom):
- The Sound
- The War Inside
- Mess of Me
- This is Your Life
- Rise Above It
- Meant to Live
- The Original
- Dare You to Move
- Hello Hurricane
- Dark Horses
- Where I Belong