Switchfoot, Paper Route 10/2/12, at TLA in Philadelphia, PA
One of the hardest working bands in music today is arguably San Diego pop rock outfit Switchfoot. Having been recording and performing music for fifteen years now, the guys have had a busy 2012 with tours and festivals, all while working on a new film about their journey, titled Fading West. For the fall 2012 touring season, the fivesome have teamed up with Nashville indie pop band Paper Route, who also just released a brand new album, to rock clubs along the east coast. The tour made a stop at the popular Philadelphia club, TLA, on a particularly rainy October Tuesday.
For this tour, Switchfoot offers special VIP tickets that give eager fans early entry to the show, a tour poster, Meet and Greet time with the band, and a shirt or CD if you pay extra. As such, VIP folks were given early admittance out of the drizzle, before the doors opened to the paying masses at 7:00pm. At around 8pm, the lights went out for the music to start. The stage lighting remained a bit dim as Paper Route began their set with the opening track, "Love Letters," from their brand new album, The Peace of Wild Things. With a full band on stage, the electronic driven band was able to do a fine job recreating the vibe of their studio recordings. "Wish" from their national debut, Absence, followed. It was good to hear them mix it up a bit and throw a bone to longtime fans, although I admit I was eager to hear the new stuff live. And I was quite pleased to find that most of their set was from the new album. "Two Hearts" followed and then vocalist JT Daly prefaced the next song as being "about heartbreak" and launched into the bittersweet but catchy "Better Life." With a textured musical soundscape on stage, treating their arsenal of musical toys like an assortment of tools for use by a grand chef in their kitchen, the members of Paper Route painted an audio masterpiece with each song played. The love song "Sugar" was next, which was countered by the more bleak (but again, catchy) "Letting You Let Go." Daly then introduced the next song as their current single (which also has a pretty cool music video that goes along with it) and played another highlight in "You and I." For those just waiting for more Absence offerings, they finally were met with a standout song from that record in "Gutter." About midway through the song, Daly climbed atop a riser displaying a second drum set positioned in the center of the stage and offered a second drum beat to the spastic (and impressive) drumming from the band's regular beat master Gavin McDonald. Before the close of the song, JT resumed his post center-stage and the song moved immediately into the musical bliss of "Rabbit Holes." Afterwards, Daly gushed about how wonderful the Switchfoot guys have been to tour with and how they've been the best band they've ever shared the road with, and then expressed a wealth of gratitude to the audience for their support and enthusiasm throughout their set. With that, they closed with "Dance On Our Graves" from Absence, which featured Gavin utilizing the second drum set for part of the song as well.
Paper Route's set lasted about fifty or fifty five minutes and then a set change ensued. It was around 9:15 that the lights dimmed again and the sounds of San Diego's own Switchfoot began to arrest the crowd's attention. "The Sound," from their famed Hello Hurricane album, kicked off the night, a rocker that served as a satisfying way to kick off their set. To the surprise of anyone close enough to get an eyeful of their set list on stage, the band snuck "Stars" into the mix next. For both songs, front man Jon Foreman stepped off the stage and stood on the fence between the audience and the security pit in front of the stage, hanging into the audience to get up close and personal with fans. With each time I've seen Switchfoot in the past couple of years, Foreman has done a lot to shrink the distance between the audience and the band. This night was the most I've ever seen Jon wade into and through the audience during a single show. "The War Inside" followed, and the band closed that rocking anthem with a jam session of sorts that fit the vibe of the song well. "Needle and Haystack Life," also from Hurricane, was a nice touch next, and then the guys broke into a rousing rendition of Vice Verses' "The Original" (which may have been the first time I've heard them play that live). Toward the end of the song, Jon asked the audience if he could be an honorary member of Philadelphia for the evening and entered the audience, wading through the back and up the stairs until he stopped next to one elated fan who then began snapping flash photos of Foreman and her as he tried to talk to the audience (it was kind of funny actually). From his place in the balcony, Jon talked a bit about "Restless" and began to perform the song. He eventually made his way through the balcony to the side platform in front of the bar, where he stood on the ledge and continued to perform the song. Finally, he made his way back to the speaker stacks and climbed back on stage. With an even more jazzed up crowd, the band launched into "Your Love Is A Song," for which Foreman strapped an acoustic guitar around his chest and a harmonica around his neck. He then paused to talk about their forthcoming film, Fading West, and thanked the fans for being along for the band's journey spanning eight albums. He then introduced the next song as being "about movement" and "meaning as much to me now as when I wrote it" and performed "Dare You To Move."
iPhone footage of "Company Car" live Oct. 2, 2012
Appropriately, in a sort of retrospective manner, some banter with the audience segued into Foreman's introduction of the band behind him. Some fans down front displayed a massive banner which caught the attention of the guys, and they pulled it up on stage. The banner celebrated their friend (and ours) Kim Flanders who was attending her 100th Switchfoot show. They then brought her out on stage and announced that the next song was for her, a song she requested from their early years, "Company Car." It was a great live moment and a real gem to hear live once again. I have a fond memory of hearing the guys play it -- as a trio -- back probably at Creation East 2000 during a humble early afternoon stage slot in front of a small crowd. Without skipping a beat, they blended it right into "Mess of Me," the ferocious rocker from Hello Hurricane, and then gave the edgy "Dark Horses" a slow intro before transitioning to the regular version. They then blended that into "Meant To Live," for which Jon stood on the barrier in front of the crowd again, and closed their set. The guys walked off the stage with the inevitable encore still forthcoming, and then something truly intriguing happened. While in the photo pit, I caught a glimpse of the set list and saw what songs were in their encore. I don't know if some of the crowd also saw this or not, but while some screamed for "One more song," a large group of other fans began singing the intro "Whoa-oh's" from "Hello Hurricane" over and over (which was the song listed as coming next on their set list). The band then came out and Jon excitedly encouraged the "Whoa-oh's" before joining them to launch the song. And after they completed that song, Jon thanked the audience and began what is arguably one of their most impactful songs to date, "Where I Belong." Foreman proceeded to wade into the audience once last time, making his way all around the crowd and back to the stage before finishing. They then said goodbye and Jon added a "God bless you, Philly!" before walking off. Fans chanted for "Afterlife," but "Where I Belong" had been the night's official capping.
While I can't say I've seen Switchfoot a hundred times, I have been following them since their humble beginnings and have indeed seen them many times over the years, since before Drew and Jerome made the three-piece a five-piece powerhouse. The band's sets at festivals can be really exciting and massive, but it's these intimate tour nights in clubs where most of the fans are diehard Switchfoot fans that really are the special ones. And matching up Switchfoot with Paper Route was an inspirational pairing. It was an excellent night of rock music and I would encourage anyone not to miss this tour!
01. Love Letters
03. Two Hearts
04. Better Life
06. Letting You Let Go
07. You and I
09. Rabbit Holes
10. Dance On Our Graves
Switchfoot Set List
01. The Sound (John M. Perkins' Blues)
03. The War Inside
04. Needle and Haystack Life
05. The Original
07. Your Love Is A Song
08. Dare You To Move
09. Company Car
10. Mess of Me
11. Dark Horses
12. Meant To Live
13. Hello Hurricane
14. Where I Belong
Switchfoot Fall Tour 2012
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**vertical images cropped for thumbnails**