Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Switchfoot at the Gramercy Theatre

Jon Foreman, singing from the audience
Jon Foreman and his brother Tim, along with Chad Butler, formed the low-fi, guitar-driven, alternative hard rock band Chin Up in 1996 in San Diego, California. The name was soon changed to Switchfoot, a surfing term. Switchfoot had early success in the Christian rock scene, then gained mainstream recognition when four of the band’s songs were featured in the 2002 movie A Walk to Remember, starring singer and actress Mandy Moore, who sang Switchfoot's "Only Hope" in the film. Switchfoot has recorded nine albums, including the forthcoming soundtrack to Fading West, a travel documentary that documents the musicians’ passion for music and surfing. Switchfoot presently is Jon Foreman (lead vocals, guitar), Tim Foreman (bass guitar, backing vocals), Chad Butler (drums, percussion), Jerome Fontamillas (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), and Drew Shirley (guitar, backing vocals).

Since Switchfoot's debut album in 1997, the band's sound has evolved significantly. Switchfoot is now a power rock radio band. Imagine a singer songwriter who decides to write only anthems. At the Gramercy Theater tonight, even if one had never before heard the band’s music, by the end of most songs one was able to sing the chorus. The songs were slick and catchy pop tunes, without a lot of instrumental flourish by ways of solos, although many of the compositions retained the left-of-center indie arrangements of the band’s early days. The lyrics had depth, often reinforcing positive messages about self worth and hope. Jon Foreman proved to be a passionate singer and crowd motivator.  He mentioned several times that the band was hoping to bring a California campfire feel to the show, and he succeeded in making the show feel like a kum-ba-ya group hug. Early on the show, even before removing his hat and coat, he sang two songs from various areas of the audience, standing on the fan’s chairs, and later announced that the organist was in California for the birth of his second child today. Awww. The band members answered questions from the audience, and for one encore even brought onstage a mandolin player from the audience whom they had seen perform in a park earlier that day. Double awww. It was a wholesome show, and really wonderful at that. The only complaint is that even with two songs for an encore, the show was only an hour long.

The opening act, so to speak, was a showing of the band’s documentary, Fading West, which will be released commercially this winter. Switchfoot will perform another sold out show at the Gramercy Theatre tomorrow night; the film will be the opening act.  Visit Switchfoot at www.switchfoot.com.