Switchfoot in Cambridge: A Review

12 11 2011

Last night, I went to see my favorite band Switchfoot at The Junction here in Cambridge, which is literally a 6 or 7 minute walk from my doorm, which is very nice and convenient.

When I came over here, I was aware that I would miss out on the inaugural season of the Harriman-Jewell Series at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.  I was also aware that I would probably miss out on other concerts as well.  This is indeed the case, as I am notably missing a MercyMe/Sanctus Real concert that I would have loved to attend.  So, Switchfoot’s UK mini-tour and their stop in Cambridge was a welcome event, especially for me because I have not left an area the size of 3 or 4 square miles in 7 weeks.  I desperately want to do something; after all, I’m in ENGLAND for Pete’s sake.  I didn’t think I would come here and do absolutely 0 visiting in almost two whole months.  Ridiculous.  Anyway, rant over…I was happy that Switchfoot arrived to bring me out of my restlessness for a bit.

Now, the review part.

The Junction is a venue with three separate stages.  The one in which Switchfoot performed was a very small place; I reckoned there were a couple hundred people at the concert, but no more than that.  Due to demand, Switchfoot had upgraded their venue on a couple of stops in the UK, but Jon (the lead singer) told us during the concert that they wanted to have a more intimate thing in Cambridge.

The opening band, In Case of Fire, was a hard/alternative rock band trio from Northern Ireland.  The lead singer was very Irish-looking and had a discernible Irish accent, which was cool.  In addition, their drummer looked exactly like Joshua Jackson with a mustache.  They were a very talented group; the lead singer had a tremendous voice range and was quite good at guitar.  The drummer was more than proficient as well, and the bassist played some difficult bass riffs with ease.  Unfortunately, the songwriting was subpar, their set was monotonous, and the band suffered from an overly loud and muddy sound mix.  There are three types of opening bands:  accomplished bands who are playing for a significantly larger band, bands on the rise but not yet big enough to sell out a headlining tour, and filler bands.  In Case of Fire was the latter–live shows are vitally important to me.  If you don’t have a good live show, you aren’t a good band…and I will hold to that opinion.

(click on pictures to enlarge them)

In Case of Fire

Joshua Jackson’s Doppelganger?  Yep.

After In Case of Fire came on, there was an unfortunately lengthy set change before the main attraction began.

Nice Banner

Switchfoot rocking it out

This was my 4th time seeing Switchfoot.  Each time has been a treat, as each time I have experienced a different set list and songs that I probably won’t hear live from them ever again.  This time was no different.

Switchfoot opened with “Mess of Me” from their last album Hello Hurricane.  Immediately one could tell the difference in sound mixing:  way less guitar, more (and cleaner) vocals, scaled back drums.  They were still loud, but not unnecessarily loud.  Rock bands need to be loud.  Rock bands should not be unnecessarily loud.  Switchfoot rocked harder than In Case of Fire within the first couple minutes than the previous band did the entire show.

After Mess of Me, Switchfoot launched into one of my all-time favorites:  Stars.  Their next four songs were each from a different album–this made their first 5 songs a sort of democratic representation of Switchfoot’s ‘modern’ albums–2003’s A Beautiful Letdown, 2005’s Nothing is Sound, 2006’s Oh! Gravity, 2009’s Hello Hurricane, and 2011’s Vice Verses.

From there, the setlist goes blurry in my mind.  I could tell you if they played a song or not, but not when it was played or what followed.  Notably, Switchfoot covered Pink Floyd’s “Money,” as Pink Floyd is from Cambridge.  Live classic rock is one of the best things your ear can ever hear in your life.  Switchfoot nailed it.

—-Edit—-

For anyone looking for the setlist (or anyone interested), I can indeed remember which songs they played.  I can remember the order for the first five and the last three.  Other than that, places are irrelevant.

  • Mess of Me
  • Stars
  • Oh! Gravity
  • War Inside
  • This is Your Life
  • The Original
  • Money
  • Your Love Is a Song
  • Restless
  • Needle and Haystack Life
  • We Are One Tonight/Shadow Proves the Sunshine
  • Souvenirs
  • Dare You to Move
  • Dark Horses
  • Meant to Live
  • Where I Belong (encore)
  • The Sound (encore)

There are a couple things that make Switchfoot’s live show special.  First, each successive album they make is high quality.  Their last five albums are all excellent, and it wasn’t until a weird epiphany I had last night that I could distinguish my favorite Switchfoot album (Nothing is Sound).  Second, Switchfoot doesn’t just play their songs and be done with it.  Switchfoot uses audience participation, extended solos and/or choruses, additional elements like drums or novelty sounds, and splices of their songs to make for a compelling experience.  Thirdly, they are just really, really talented.  Some bands or musicians achieve fame with only moderate talent levels.  Not so with Switchfoot–each member is an expert at their instrument and they all gel together to form a very tight, musically interesting band.

All in all, I thought it was probably one of my favorite concerts I’ve been to.  Best Switchfoot concert ever?  I dunno…their Oh! Gravity tour was wonderful.  But it was extremely good.  If you don’t know who Switchfoot is, or haven’t heard their stuff since “Dare You to Move,” I would suggest them as a band to listen to.  Jon’s songwriting is a big part of this; each song is, well, deep.  He has a talent for songwriting that very, very few people in the popular music industry have.  All in all?  Great night.  Here’s some more photos:

Jon banging on a drum in “War Inside”

Yes, I was close…Jon in the crowd.  One of the best concert pictures I’ve taken.

“Jerome…you can play Skyrim later…”

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