Switchfoot | 10.28.06

The first verse of opener "Stars" conveys a worldview straight from Descartes' vantage point, while the closing hit "Meant to Live" takes inspiration from T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men." With this impressive catalog of musings and muses (also among their arsenal are songs reflecting Kierkegaard and St. Augustine), it was interesting to find that the most vocal portion of the audience were of the under-21 variety.

 

The Pageant, St. Louis

When you name your band of shaggy-haired San Diego boys after a surfing move, it can almost be expected that your lyrical content will consist of little more than leftover Keanu Reeves lines, with about as much depth. Not so with ten-year rock veterans Switchfoot, whose clever and quirky brand of alt-rock built them a loyal fan base before their contributions to the soundtrack of  A Walk to Remember started a wave of mainstream success (mediocre pun fully intended). Despite the boys' accessible, youth-friendly sound, their message has always carried a simple, yet powerful blend of spiritual and social awareness.

Throughout the band's hour-and-a-half-long set at The Pageant, lead vocalist/guitarist Jon Foreman led the enthusiastic crowd in sing-along renditions of radio-ready (yet not entirely watered-down) numbers that blended the philosophical with the inspirational and the political with the hopeful. The first verse of opener "Stars" conveys a worldview straight from Descartes' vantage point, while the closing hit "Meant to Live" takes inspiration from T.S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men." With this impressive catalog of musings and muses (also among their arsenal are songs reflecting Kierkegaard and St. Augustine), it was interesting to find that the most vocal portion of the audience were of the under-21 variety. This, however, proved positive for the show's atmosphere and allowed the band members to indulge their more humorous and playful sides, as well. Foreman was particularly on cue, leaping from atop keyboardist Jerome Fontamillas's human-height deck of electronic toys and stealing one of drummer Chad Butler's ride cymbals during impressive new songs "My American Dream" and "Dirty Second Hands." Attendees were also treated to a brief song dedicated to the Cardinals' postseason success in which Foreman said the band would "still play rock music with St. Louis" despite the defeat of his hometown Padres.

Switchfoot's disdain for apathy has grown increasingly clear with each album, as evidenced by recent hits "This Is Your Life" and encore-closer "Dare You to Move" as well as the band's chosen "older" track (i.e., 2000), "Learning to Breathe," played despite cheers for fan favorites "Company Car" and "Chem 6A." This underlying thirst for the ideal in the midst of the imperfect world also fueled the social commentary of "We Are One Tonight," crowd favorite "Happy Is a Yuppie Word" (attributed to a quote Bob Dylan gave a reporter), and the hard-rocking "Politicians," which Foreman stated "is just as much about the kingdom of heaven, if you ask me." Though many of their lyrics center on the ability to transform and transcend, the band remains fully aware that (triteness aside), actions do speak louder than words. "If you're gonna point the finger, you've got to point it at yourself first," Foreman declared. Though they did not go into detail on humanitarian causes this night, the band has been known for its involvement with organizations such as DATA, Invisible Children, and To Write Love on Her Arms (for which Fontamillas sported a shirt during the show).

Though their sound has become increasingly more acceptable to the mainstream (moving from lo-fi indie rock to synth-layered pop to guitar rock), the band's heart seems to have stayed in the same place. And the members appear (in studio and on the stage) to have a full understanding of their identity as a band. The offbeat flashbacks to their early days still spring up (see: "Gone"), but are perfectly complemented by a sensitive and mature desire to live beyond borders (see: "Ammunition"). A rich catalogue of music. A fine translation to live performance. Switchfoot is worth getting to know. | Aaron Brummet

 

I realize the show is the focus of this article, but I think it would be appropriate to include links to the organizations mentioned. After all, music is often used as a weapon for causes greater than itself.

DATA 

Invisible Children

To Write Love on Her Arms

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