With the long awaited release of Switchfoot's seventh studio release, Hello Hurricane, came with it the promise of a short album-launch tour that would find the band in a few cities across the country playing their entire new album inside intimate venues. The first announcement of shows only included a dozen dates, but as it drew closer to the album release in early November, additional dates in cities like New York and Philadelphia, among others, were added to the run. And "An Evening With Switchfoot: The Hello Hurricane Tour" was really turning into an extended Fall/Winter Switchfoot Tour.
The very thought of hearing Hello Hurricane performed in its entirety from track one on down to track twelve in sequential order was enticing. The concept of hearing a band play an entire album front to back is one I've heard about other acts doing - mainly mainstream acts - but have never experienced live myself. And Hello Hurricane is a great choice for an album to be heard performed live.
Actually, that's a thought I never fully grasped until I was in the midst of Hello Hurricane being performed. Again, the concept sounded delicious, but it's something else to actually be there witnessing this unfold. At 9pm on December 11th, 2009 inside the sold out TLA in Philadelphia, Jerome, Chad, Tim, and Andrew emerged and took their places on the stage. Birds, like those in flight on the album cover artwork for Hello Hurricane, were dangling from the ceiling above the band, while a pair of backdrops displaying portions of the cover art were standing behind the band. It was a fantastic setup and it only added to the unique feel of the night. As the band began to play, sans frontman Jon Foreman, a figure pushed past me and flashed a smile and a greeting to a friend of ours next to us. It was Foreman. Forgetting that his band was already on stage and kicking off the evening, it was a surprise for me to realize that Foreman was in the audience and NOT on stage. Jon climbed up on the divider of our section towards the middle-side of the TLA and began singing "Needle and Haystack Life." Everyone in the general vicinity was floored and it sent a surge of energy and excitement throughout those in attendance. As Foreman stood there, beginning the night with the lead off track from their newest record, a setlist could be seen scribbled on his left hand. While most likely very few nearby could actually make out what the scrawl read as he sang, I later discovered via the concert photos that it was a proposed set list for the run of favorites that succeed the Hello Hurricane portion of the night. Songs like "Vice Verses" (from the forthcoming follow-up to their latest album), "Lonely Nation," "This Is Home," "On Fire," and "Your Love Is Strong" were all among the tracks written on the back of his hand, with only two rarities of that list (which I've yet to mention) having been played. It just goes to prove how spontaneous and loose the band was in how the structure of the show went, and it all gave off a really great vibe.
The Philadelphia audience ate up each song played - especially the Hello Hurricane songs. The rocker "Mess Of Me" was next, and afterwards, Foreman - who had long been on the stage by this time (since the middle or so of "Needle") - took a moment to introduce themselves. "We are the opening band," Jon stated to a round of applause. "We are Hello Hurricane." He then added that Switchfoot would be out later to perform songs from all six of their previous albums. He then prefaced "Your Love Is A Song" as being one of the many songs of theirs written about things he doesn't understand, like God and girls, and stated that the track was about grace, specifically. He then talked a little about author John M. Perkins and how one of his books had inspired the next song, "The Sound." The anthemic rocker was one of the many evening highlights, and after the softer "Enough To Let Me Go," they threw a curve ball with an added intro to "Free." Selecting the opening verses from Nothing Is Sound's "Happy Is A Yuppie Word," Foreman repeated the words "Nothing is sound" several times before the band broke into the rocker, "Free." To make the track stand out even more, Jerome, Chad, and Jon performed drums at the same time to give it a rousing outro and drive home the band's concept of the record being divided into two segments. Foreman introduced "Hello Hurricane" as sort of the start of "Side B" to the record, and the performance of the title track was yet another highlight of the night. Before "Always," Jon talked candidly about performing one of their very first headlining shows here in Philadelphia at the Pontiac Grill (not sure if it was this show he was referring to?), which is no longer even a venue, and joked that he used to play the piano but Jimmy Page's talents inspired him to quit the instrument. Foreman then sat down at the piano to sing the ballad before returning to his feet for the rocker, "Bullet Soul." During the song (which also sounded amazing live), Jon waded back into the audience to mingle with the crowd, and then returned to the stage for "Yet." Drummer Chad Butler emerged from behind his drum set and played a standalone drum while Jerome Fontamillas picked up an accordion. It was another cool chilled out moment, and a great intro into the close of the set with "Sing It Out" and "Red Eyes." As the latter drew to a grand finish, they extended the album's "Needle" reprise outro, with Foreman adding "This is the calm after the storm." It was a wonderful conclusion to what was an incredible set. There was a sense of finality brought about by the close of the album, but it was exciting to know there was a lot more music still to come.
Before the guys left the stage, Jon looked back at the band, hesitated, and then turned to the audience and said, "I didn't check with the guys first about this, but I'd like to give this a try..." and asked the audience to all begin singing a Switchfoot song they want the band to play until one song is being sung louder than the rest -- and that would be the song that they would play. Much to our surprise, and joy, the band returned and broke into "Chem6A," the band's first popular song, which was released on their 1997 debut, The Legend Of Chin (and, incidentally, it was the very song that attracted me to Switchfoot in the Fall of that year). "Stars" was a worthy follow-up, and towards the end of the song, Jon pulled a large fan-made sign out from the audience that asked the band if they could play the song with them. Jon obliged, inviting the two guys on stage to play guitar for the song's last chorus. To the band's amazement, their performance of the riffs were flawless, making it a great improv moment in the set. "Oh! Gravity." was next, and afterwards, Jon said he had seen a girl with a song title tattooed on the back of her neck and dedicated the following performance to her. With that, they performed a fantastic rendition of the acoustic song "Let That Be Enough" to begin a great intimate set moment. And if that wasn't incredible enough, Foreman announced that the next song was the first time they would ever have played the song live, and they performed the band's 1998 Happy Christmas holiday offering, "Evergreen."
For "This Is Your Life," a favorite from The Beautiful Letdown, Foreman waded into the crowd and ran to the back of the club and up to the balcony, where he stood with the fans and sung the song. He then moved to a different part of the balcony and spoke about hope before leading into "Dare You To Move." Midway through the track, he returned to the stage and finished the song, with the band leaving the stage and leaving the audience to chant "One more song!" before they came back out one last time. "Awakening" was the first half of the encore, and a fine choice at that (although, some of the rarer cuts they had originally planned would have also been great). And they immediately followed it with a dramatic, moody, dark drum-driven moment where Jon began singing part of "Love Is The Movement" in a much slower pace than its recorded form. In fact, it sounded exactly like the intro the band had been using for "Meant To Live" for quite some time, only with "Love Is The Movement" lyrics laid over top. And technically, that's exactly what it was as they then jumped right into "Meant To Live" after a few verses from "Movement," to bring the evening to a rousing finish.
I've seen a lot of concerts over the years and to say that "An Evening With Switchfoot: The Hello Hurricane Tour" was one of the best shows and best tours I've ever seen is a tough call to make, but it was one of those live experiences that don't come around very often and are incredible ones to be a part of. After finally getting to see a band perform an entire new album from start to finish, I can think of several albums by other artists I wish would be performed this way. And it's something I really hope catches on with other artists as well. Hopefully Switchfoot will continue to do this with future projects, too. Maybe the novelty will wear off when done again, but what's special about "An Evening With Switchfoot: The Hello Hurricane Tour" is not only the performance and the musicianship, but the songs themselves. Hello Hurricane is a great batch of songs, and you can feel the love and appreciation for their fans when Switchfoot selected their second set of fan favorites to play. "An Evening With Switchfoot" is quite an amazing evening indeed -- and music and Switchfoot fans alike would do well not to miss this rare experience!-- John DiBiase, 12/13/09
Switchfoot Set List
01. Needle and Haystack Life
02. Mess of Me
03. Your Love Is A Song
04. The Sound (John M. Perkins' Blues)
05. Enough To Let Me Go
07. Hello Hurricane
09. Bullet Soul
11. Sing It Out
12. Red Eyes
15. Oh! Gravity.
16. Let That Be Enough
18. This Is Your Life
19. Dare You To Move
21. Love Is The Movement / Meant To Live
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