Photos by Dawn Hamilton
Switchfoot’s “Looking for America” tour underwent an apt name change for their dates north of the border. The “Looking for Canada” tour, which featured fellow mainstream Christian rockers, Relient K, brought some well needed inspiration to a wintry evening in a questioning and uncertain world.
Relient K’s set was a mix of nostalgia tinged pop-punk tunes, and newer takes from their latest albums. They opened with a nod to the former – “High of 75” from 2004’s ‘Mmhmm’, and kept an even balance between the new and old, performing “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been”, “Forget and Not Slow Down” and “I Need You” interspersed between their newer fare, “Bummin”’ – the lead single from their newest album, and “Air For Free” – its title track.
My personal favourite was their performance of “Crayons Can Melt On Us For All I Care” a tongue in cheek tune that is literally ten seconds long, but the crowd clearly appreciated “Sadie Hawkins Dance”, the oldest tune of their setlist. The band also premiered a new song, “Candy Hearts”, which will be part of their upcoming Valentine’s Day EP.
Cycling between the keyboard, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and microphone, frontman, Matt Thiessen seemed to thoroughly enjoy his time up onstage. “Matt! We love you!”, a chorus of female voices shrieked in between songs. ‘“Blaaaahaaaahah!’ That’s what I heard,” he responded jokingly.
For a final one-two punch of an encore, Relient K performed “Be My Escape”, which the audience recognized immediately from the very first note, and the 11 minute epic that is “Deathbed”. Despite the length, complexity, and variety of lyrics of their closing tune, many people sang along to every single word. Switchfoot frontman, Jon Foreman cameoed onstage for this closing number, cumulating an epic and expansive opening set.
“Good evening and welcome to the show,” a disembodied robotic voice beckoned, as Switchfoot settled on stage, “tonight you are looking for America.” The crowd was clearly invested in the evening, with crowdsurfing starting as early as the second song in, “Meant To Live”.
Diverging from past performances’ setlist’s, the band performed “Stars” and “Lonely Nation” from 2005’s “Nothing Is Sound”. “This is a song I don’t play very often, but right now it feels right,” Foreman confided with the crowd before playing “Only Hope” to an ecstatic crowd.
“This is the time when I have conversations where most often the response is ‘Woooo’,” Jon Foreman joked with the crowd as he engaged with an audience member gifted with an especially loud voice. “Is your name David?” Foreman inquired cheekily, “No, my name’s Jared,” the mystery man replied. “I have these voices in my head. Sometimes they’re real. Jared are you real?” “Yes I am.”
Though Switchfoot are, by definition, a Christian rock band, the majority of their tunes’ subject matter is left open ended. Regardless of whether one perceives the songs to be about a loved one, a deity, or any other random entity, the band’s music is filled with messages of solidarity, introspection, hope, optimism, and community. For “I Won’t Let You Go”, Foreman asked the crowd to put their arms around the strangers surrounding them, and sway back and forth in time with the expansive tune.
For their encore, the band returned on stage with Canadian flags attached to their respective instruments and performed two songs from their latest album, “Fading West”. Bubbles filled the venue for “Float”, a danceable track which features a funky bassline and guitar riffs. Foreman led a crowd singalong, and performed the final verse of the tune while crowdsurfing all the way to the back of the venue. “Can I be an honorary Canadian?” he joked while lifted in the air, “I mean, they let me into the country!” For “Live It Well”, the loud voiced audience member, Jared, came on stage and delivered Jon an excitedly aggressive hug. “It’s nice when a voice in your head comes to life!” Foreman joked.
Foreman is not only an engaging musician and performer, but a capable speaker and wordsmith as well. “There are a lot of voices saying we should give up – that this tired little world will never change” he confided in the crowd, “I’m here today to say ‘don’t believe those voices’! We play these songs because we believe hope deserves an anthem.” The evening’s closing number, “Dare You To Move” is this kind of anthem, and was made all the more powerful as the entire venue sang every word while confetti filled the air.
Regardless of religious affiliation, a Switchfoot show is an uplifting and beautiful affair, with songs and sentiments that ring so especially true in this divided world that we live in.