Switchfoot, the popular Christian rock group that gained popularity in the early 2000s, played to a packed house on Oct. 8 at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston. With a lively and interactive set, Switchfoot proved that they can still deliver a heartfelt, meaningful and fun concert.
The show opened with a film about the band’s history, which detailed the past several years the group has spent on the road and the production of their new album “Fading West,” to be released on Jan. 14. Although informative, the film dragged on for 20 minutes and less enthusiastic fans in the audience were wondering if they had paid to see a concert or a movie about the band. Even more disappointing was the fact that the band played a set that was just over an hour long. While catering to the needs of their very family-oriented fan-base – the crowd included many children, middle-aged parents and even some more elderly spectators – the band could have better served its audience by shortening the movie to play a longer set, which still would have allowed them to end at reasonable hour.
The showmanship of the band, however – along with the quality and energy of the evening’s music – made for a good show. After experiencing a power outage several minutes into the set, band members quickly adapted, enthusiastically engaging the audience in a “California campfire sing-a-long” to continue the night. Playing popular hits like “Dare You to Move” and “The Sound,” the band performed acoustically for the first third of their concert while the sound was fixed. Using their laid-back California beach roots, band members led group clapping with the audience, venturing out onto tables in the first section of the theater.
This sort of inclusive, cohesive atmosphere contributed to the band’s overarching message, especially when they were introducing their songs and talking to the audience during the evening. At one point, lead singer Jon Foreman said, “I do believe that every moment we have here on this planet is a gift.” During the break between the acoustic and the electric parts of the show, the band held a question-and-answer session with the crowd, answering questions audience members had written during intermission – a nice touch that added to the community-based feeling of the event. In response to a question about their new album and the meaning behind its title, “Fading West,” Foreman explained that the boys loved to watch surf movies as kids. According to Foreman, the album is reflective of the surfing mentality: chasing the sun around the globe and searching for inspiration. As Foreman articulated, “Fading West” is about being able to “face life, wherever it takes you.”
For newer fans, it may have been surprising that religion wasn’t the main focus of the concert. Like many other contemporary Christian rock bands, Switchfoot doesn’t overemphasize the Christian elements of their music, though they still do incorporate some Christian themes into their songs – this gives the audience the ability to choose if they want to interpret songs secularly or spiritually. While many families in the audience cheered loudly at the few brief religious references the band made, it was easy for non-Christian and more secular concertgoers to enjoy the band’s music.
Switchfoot also proved that they have the musical prowess to put together an incredibly entertaining show. Listeners weren’t expecting the theatricality of Lady Gaga or the high-octane power of Metallica, but the band found a balance between acoustic strength and moments of harder rock – like Dave Matthews Band, with an extra bit of flair.
The film preceding the concert and the brevity of the event were admittedly disappointing, but overall, Switchfoot’s show was a worthwhile experience. Best of all, the performance proved that while the their new album is titled “Fading West,” Switchfoot is anything but fading.