Concert Review: Switchfoot Looks for America and Finds Hope in Portland

It’s certainly atypical to begin a concert review with a request but so be it. Switchfoot, you guys have outgrown the Crystal Ballroom. Please consider the Keller Auditorium or Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on the next tour through Portland, OR. You’ll have a professional stage, we’ll have chairs and unobstructed views, and you’ll still blow the lid off the place.

Now, on to the show.

Indeed, Switchfoot played to an immense sold-out crowd on Thursday at the ballroom with the bouncing floor finally bringing their Looking for America tour to the Pacific Northwest. They’ve been on the road for months with Reliant K in support of their fabulous 10th album Where the Light Shines Through.

It wasn’t a long show, at least just for Switchfoot, which managed 14 songs in less than 90 minutes. But it was a very lengthy evening when including Reliant K’s opening set which was as long as Switchfoot’s and the break in between. After a brief video introduction to promote Cure International, the San Diego surfers got on stage about 20 minutes after 9 p.m. opening their set with “Holy Water” the first tract off their latest album.

Audience favorite “Meant to Live” got a sub-in drummer when singer Jon Foreman invited a fan to play the final bars off the song before the guys resumed business with the opening cut from 2005’s Nothing is Sound, “Lonely Nation” which – fun fact – was written many years ago inside the Crystal. Switchfoot then proceeded with three straight off Where The Light Shines Through playing the rather original and playful “Bull in a China Shop,” the album’s title song and the fantastic “Won’t Let You Go” the intensely emotional  – lyrically and musically – highlight of the album.

Foreman’s vocals reached new levels on “Won’t Let You Go” but overall, even from the set opening, something proved different. When “Holy Water” started it sounded like the band piped in a recording to mark their entrance but undoubtedly it was Foreman and his mates. The five of them played tight all evening, something a long tour usually benefits from especially if everyone gets along. And no doubt these guys like one another but they truly love each other, their profession and the fans.

Lately, it seems almost impossible for those in the music industry or entertainment business as a whole to refrain from commenting on the current political atmosphere in this country. And Switchfoot was no different. Thankfully, Foreman who regularly addressed the crowd refrained from taking sides and instead introduced “Love Alone is Worth the Fight” (with a brief “Shadow Proves the Sunshine” teaser) by saying his hope is not in Washington, DC but rather in the Maker. Nice touch.

If there was any doubt about Switchfoot’s musical prowess their interaction with another fan produced a song request for “On Fire” the ninth tract on 2003’s The Beautiful Letdown. Obscure, for sure, and Foreman said it had been some years since the band played the song but they ripped it without so much as one perceptual mistake. One would think the requesting “fan” was a plant!

Switchfoot has come a long way from being that band with that song from the sad Mandy Moore movie. They did close the show with “Dare You to Move” but that tune no longer defines them. At least it shouldn’t. And to fans, it surely doesn’t. Take “The Sound” a hard-charging rock effort from Hello Hurricane that got everybody jumping or one of their latest, “Float,” which the band played to open the encore.  An absolutely fun song that departs from anything they’ve ever recorded.

Overall, Switchfoot featured seven songs off the new album, a solid selection leaving them with just seven to choose from any of their past albums. And there’s many. At this point in their career, the shorter setlist leaves off plenty of songs many no doubt wished to hear.

As such, Switchfoot’s stage show now equates to those A-list type of acts complete with background projection screens with accompanying video, great lighting, smoke, confetti shower and even bubbles. Of course their playing by itself rules the night. Yet, the small available platform at the Crystal Ballroom comes across cramped so learning to breathe a bit for the five-some  with some space between themselves and their instruments and all that a wide open stage offers could only bring net positive results and heighten the overall concert experience.

And our line of sight wouldn’t be the back of some guy’s head.

Switchfoot Portland Setlist at Crystal Ballroom:

1.Holy Water
2.Meant to Live
3.Lonely Nation
4.Bull in a China Shop
5.Where the Light Shines Through
6.I Won’t Let You Go
7.Love Alone is Worth the Fight
8.On Fire
9.If the House Burns Down Tonight
10.The Sound
11.Where I Belong
12.Float
13.Live It Well
14.Dare You to Move

Written By: AndrewT

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