Multi-Platinum, Grammy Award Winning rock outfit Switchfoot made their long awaited return to Australian shores and played their first show of their tour on Tuesday night at Brisbane’s Triffid. Their global fan base as strong as ever, not deterred at all by the midweek show and looming heatwave, sold out the event and showed up early and excited with the line stretching down the street outside the venue. I myself have been a fan since the 2000 release of ‘Learning To Breathe’, which now has a special place in my heart, however this will be my first time seeing them live and I couldn’t be more excited.
Local heavy hitters Nervous Light opened the night with a sampled intro from modern day spiritual philosopher Alan Watts. This spiked interest from the start, implying an indication of the depth of the music about to saturate the Triffid. From opening track Rope, the band didn’t disappoint delivering an emo vibe any Mayday Parade fan would love. Their tracks bridge emo, pop punk and metalcore with an extremely natural flow. The depth and disparity in each track, given strength by the combined talents of Jordan Olive (guitar/vocals), Antony Borrmann (guitar/vocals) and Rich Brown (bass/vocals) all contributing their unique vocal styles through all songs. Latest single, Coffee Stains & Picture Frames, hit the crowd full on, projecting a melancholic feel across the room, the crowd mesmerised by Brown’s emotional guttural intensity.
They lifted the tone with pop-punk drenched Outsider bringing out the crowd and continued through their set closing with a haunting intro to their popular track Haunt. All three guitarists on vocals providing an intense ending to an incredible set. Nervous Light may have seemed like an interesting choice to open for the popular Christian rock act but the response from the crowd indicated it was a chance well taken. You gotta love it when the support band for the night becomes a new favourite local act – I’m looking forward to seeing these guys again live and immersing myself in their recorded work.
Switchfoot – Jon Foreman (lead vocals, guitar), Tim Foreman (bass guitar, backing vocals), Chad Butler (drums, percussion), and Jerome Fontamillas (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals) – walk up onto the stage with touring guitarist Boaz Roberts, to the cheers of an enthusiastic crowd. The gentle guitar riff to Beloved begins and Jon’s comforting vocals with wise words join in soon after. The band forms an immediate connection with the audience and sets the intentions for the rest of the show.
Taking us back a bit further into their impressive discography spanning almost a quarter of a century, they lift the energy in the room with Stars and Oh Gravity. Then called on the crowd to help them in the opening chant for Hello Hurricane, the title track for the album that won them a Grammy Award for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album in 2011. Jon jumps up onto the crowd barrier, scaling along, touching as many hands as he can, using some for support, before jumping back up onto the stage to finish the song.
Bull in a China Shop kicks off and fittingly, Jon steps off the stage once again, this time crossing the barrier and launching into the crowd, moving towards the back of the venue – not missing a single word. “I wanna rock this block like a bull in a china shop!” His vivacity and enthusiasm is contagious. The room is jam packed and it’s hard to make out where he’s gotten to, but before long I realise that he hasn’t just gone to the back of the room… he’s made his way upstairs and is now up with the crowd on the mezzanine! This is fantastic! The venue security have an easy job with the respectful crowd but are having an absolute field day trying to keep up with Jon! The song ends with the frontman still up on the mezzanine, exclaiming how grateful he is for having this opportunity to be back in Australia. He shared a tale of his time in this country as an exchange student at university.
It takes him almost the entirety of If I Were You to get back to the stage with the rest of the band then is passed his acoustic and begins to play I Won’t Let You Go. The ENTIRE crowd sings along with him from the very first breath and word. A special kind of harmony is created and has its own life when a venue of fans erupts in unison and form a union with the band like this. Jon sings in falsetto and the audience has its own register – this song is given a whole new meaning when it’s played live and exactly like this.
Jon introduced Boaz Roberts on electric guitar and tells of how he convinced Boaz to go for a surf when they were just in New Zealand… and Boaz injured his foot, slicing his heel on a rock – this explains it looking a little like a balancing act for someone who’s use to moving freely wielding the guitar and stomping on pedals – he’s doing a brilliant job up there keeping up with the energy on stage and hiding the fact though!
A tom drum gets placed in front of Tim and he begins to pound it for what becomes the very heartbeat of their 2018 single Native Tongue, the words also boldly and proudly painted on Jon’s electric guitar. Fluorescent follows, and then that unmistakable and catchy groove of Tim’s bassline for Float – if Switchfoot were to have a dance track, this could very well be it! Jon has removed his jacket for this one and heads across to Tim, arm around him – the wholesome, heart-warming brotherly love is in the air! And yes, once again, Jon makes his way back out into the audience!
Dark Horses is probably my highlight song of the night. It’s a track that’s always felt like an anthem to me, one for the underdogs – now, together in a sea of fans singing every word together as one, it shines a new light on those anthemic qualities. Switchfoot have that power – the ability to bond emotive, passionate, and meaningful lyricism with a driving force of rock beats and infectious melodies to connect to and soothe the soul of the listener and earn them such loyal fans. I wasn’t expecting this song to be the standout for me, but it was for this very reason.
Meant To Live is followed by Where I Belong, and the band get a short respite offstage before returning for a two song encore of Only Hope and Dare You To Move, which is one of the first Switchfoot songs I ever heard and is the perfect end to this crazy amazing show for me.
You can catch Switchfoot at the remaining dates around the country:
Feb 3 – Melbourne, Max Watts
Feb 4 – Adelaide, Lion Arts Factory
Feb 6 – Perth, Freo Social – ALL AGES
Tickets available here