Having been a Switchfoot and Relient K fan since 2004, getting tickets to see them live together in Boston (which is a rare trek for artists in the Christian music industry) was a no-brainer, especially because I had never seen Relient K live before. The Ohio rockers opened the evening with a generous 18-song set list that was fun, nostalgic, and quirky. Lead singer Matt Thiessen was exceptionally silly, from sprinkling the audience with his sweat to grabbing a trumpet and dancing around the stage. Even when he confined himself to the piano, he always looked like he was itching to get up and jump around (he did, in fact, stand up a couple times while playing the piano). Just as sporadic as his actions, Matt's banter between the songs was sometimes relevant to the music they were playing, and other times it was very random. For example, in between different songs, the band was trying to replicate a Boston accent they heard from a taxi driver, pondered what the owner of Bose speakers must look like (whom they called "Mr. Bose"), and talked about running on the Charles river (which, by the way, is a fantastic run in the fall). Randomness and all, you can't help but find his goofy antics entertaining. Except for "Runnin" and "Mrs. Hippopotamaous," the crowd didn't seem too excited about the new tunes they played off Air For Free, but they kept everyone engaged by including a lot of their popular songs like "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been" and "Sadie Hawkins Dance." On "Sadie Hawkins," Matt Thiessen picked up the trumpet (which had been sitting on the piano the whole time) and played it a couple times during the song. Unfortunately, he wasn't playing close enough to the microphone so you couldn't even hear it. I was pretty surprised that they played "Deathbed" to close out the extensive set. It's a beautiful song about redemption, but with the original recording from Five Score and Seven Years Ago being over 11 minutes in length, this seemed like an odd choice as their finale. Despite its length, it ended up being be a huge success, and possibly one of their best performed songs of the evening.
The tone of the evening changed dramatically for Switchfoot. A robotic female voice announced through the speaker system, "Good evening and welcome to the show. Tonight we are looking for America. And here you are." Then the band emerged from backstage and started playing the opening notes for "Holy Water" with a silhouette of Jon Foreman doing hipster dancing on the large screen in the center of the stage. Jon Foreman soon came out from underneath the screen to belt out the spine-tingling anthemic chorus. It was a strong opener (as it is on the album) and set the tone for a fantastic night. The rock and roll continued with three of their most popular songs, "Meant To Live," "Stars" and "Gone." The latter was performed exceptionally well and proved to be one of several highlights in the set list. The rock fest toned down to a steady tempo as Drew Shirley started playing the bluesy electric guitar riff on the band's new song, "Where The Light Shines Through." The tone only continued to soften for what Jon Foreman called his favorite song off the new album, "I Won't Let You Go." From there, Jon started singing the chorus of "Restless" before bursting into one of the best songs to come off their Fading West album, "Love Alone Is Worth The Fight." In the middle of the song, Jon hopped off the stage to walk through the crowd, giving high fives with one hand and holding the mic with the other. He made his way stage left and came to the edge of the main floor (where I was standing), cleared some cups on a table, and stood up on top of it (all while singing) for a good minute and a half. Some fans were frantically taking pictures with their phones while others were waving their hands up in the air. After returning to the stage, Jon Foreman introduced his band members (something I always appreciate) and had them all gather around his microphone. With Drew playing an acoustic guitar, Jerome Fontamillas playing an accordion, Chad Butler hitting a snare, and Tim Foreman just joining in on vocals, the band performed an intimate rendition of "Hello Hurricane." Their ability to make a venue like the House of Blues feel like they were in your living room is the perfect example of how Switchfoot is able to connect with the audience on a personal level. Last time they came through Boston, the power went out for a couple songs and they kept the show going in a similar fashion. Another highlight followed with "If The House Burns Down Tonight," which Jon explained was written from the perspective of driving away from his house during California wild fires, not knowing if it will still be there when they return. It's a song that starts off soft but then turns into a full-fledged rocker, and again, this was one of several memorable performances. The band then jumped into "This Is The Sound (John M. Perkins' Blues)," which has never been one of my favorite Switchfoot songs, but the way they tied it into the Looking for America theme, and with an accompanying video playing on the screens behind them, proved to be a powerful moment. They "closed" with "Where I Belong" and then promptly left the stage. About a minute after the crowd started chanting "one more song," the band returned for a three-song encore: "Float," "Live It Well" and "Dare You To Move." During "Float," two bubble making machines that flanked the stage released a continuous stream of bubbles for the majority of the song. Jon Foreman walked to the edge of the stage, turned his back to the audience, and carefully lowered himself into the hands of the excited crowd. The audience sent him around the main floor in a u-shape, all while he was singing. It was a pretty memorable moment with the bubbles floating around as Jon was crowd surfing. On "Live It Well," Jon Foreman invited Relient K back on the stage for a minute, which was nice, but it didn't seem like they made the most out of the opportunity. Jon Foreman explained that this next and final song is one that means just as much to him today as it did when he wrote it almost two decades ago. With that, he played "Dare You To Move," proving it has as much relevance as it did when it was first released in 2000.
If the Looking For America tour is coming anywhere near you, it is well worth your time and money to go check it out!-- Christopher Smith, 10/30/16
Relient K Set List
01. Local Construction
02. High of 75
04. Don't Blink
05. The One I'm Waiting For
06. Who I Am Hates Who I've Been
09. Forget and Not Slow Down
11. Air for Free
12. Mrs. Hippopotamuses'
15. Jefferson Aero Plane
16. Sadie Hawkins Dance
17. Be My Escape
Switchfoot Set List
01. Holy Water
02. Meant to Live
04. Where the Light Shines Through
05. I Won't Let You Go
06. Love Alone Is Worth The Fight
07. Hello Hurricane (Acoustic)
08. If the House Burns Down Tonight
09. The Sound (John M. Perkins' Blues)
10. Where I Belong
12. Live It Well
13. Dare You To Move
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