If you’ve ever seen a Wes Anderson film, chances are you’ll get the vibe Switchfoot is chasing with their latest tour, Switchfoot and Their Fantastical Traveling Music Show. From their matching turquoise uniforms to their red knit beanies and nautically inspired stage decor, everything about this tour screams The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. It's a look and feel that the band really lean into, and it makes Their Fantastical Traveling Music Show an absolute blast.
When things are advertised as "like nothing you've ever seen" or "you have to see it to believe it," it's seldom true. Few things can live up to that kind of hype. In fact, as it stands, Switchfoot's Fantastical Traveling Music Show is most akin to a live theatrical stage performance, perhaps something you'd get at a Sight & Sound Theatre performance in Lancaster, PA (albeit not of that scale). The production quality of Switchfoot's ambitious stage show is actually quite good. Upon further inspection, it may seem surprisingly simple, but it's simultaneously intricate and detailed, too. (How's that for a contradiction for you?) At the risk of spoiling it some, Switchfoot has sculpted a night of live music into a thematical structure that sees the band sailing at sea, hitting a storm and getting shipwrecked. Frontman Jon Foreman likens the shipwreck the band performs amidst as the "shipwreck" we often experience through life's trials. But like all Switchfoot shows, they stress the hope that lies on the other side of those trials.
The premium VIP tickets that fans could purchase allowed them early entrance to the show and a short intimate acoustic performance. On this particular night at The Hershey Theatre in Hershey, PA, Switchfoot performed a couple requested songs, including "Who We Are" and "Faust, Midas and Myself," while talking to and sharing stories with the VIP audience. They also gathered everyone for a group photo before breaking for a special Meet & Greet and photo op with each person. (The VIP guests also got a pullstring Switchfoot bag, a button pack, autographed poster, mini program booklet, and a "Team Switchfoot" iron-on patch!)
"Act One: Shipwreck (obviously)" is the first half of the night, serving as an acoustic performance. Foreman was armed with a ukulele, while drummer Chad Butler worked a makeshift, homemade drum kit that consisted of mostly found objects, including a piece of luggage as the bass drum. After a theatrical audio introduction, the guys pretended to crash-land on a deserted beach. When a spotlight illuminated Jon center stage, pacing in a pensive manner, guitarist Drew Shirley provided an audio commentary/journal voice for Foreman's inner thoughts--which was pretty amusing. The band appropriately opened, then, with "Hello Hurricane," wonderfully setting the tone for the evening. They then moved into "Love Alone is Worth the Fight," the hit single from their album Fading West. Jon stopped a bit afterwards to talk to the Hershey audience and then shared the emotional ballad, "Joy Invincible," with a little "We're Gonna Be Alright" mixed in for good measure--both from their brand new album, NATIVE TONGUE. To support a campfire vibe, Jon then encouraged drummer Chad Butler to keep the beat as he asked his band mates individually to spontaneously start playing whatever they wanted. This inspired Drew to tear into Tom Petty's "Free Falling," Jon's brother Tim Foreman to break into "I Want You Back" by Jackson 5 (at least, I think that's what it was?), keyboardist Jerome Fontamillas to launch into Queen's "Under Pressure" and then Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." In closing, Drew played part of AC/DC's "Back in Black," drawing the spontaneous medley to a close. Following, they performed part of their own "Chem 6A" and then went back into "Joy Invincible." It was a pretty fun interlude in their first Act.
At this point, they took a request, and started going through papers the fans had filled out and put into large plastic bottles (like "messages in a bottle" you might find at sea). "Always" was the first of these requests, a ballad from their Hello Hurricane album. Jon then stressed to the Hershey crowd that "The shipwreck is not the end of the story" before the band played the online voted-in "The Shadow Proves the Sunshine" from their 2005 album, Nothing Is Sound. Foreman even took the opportunity to venture out into the audience to mingle with fans while performing the song. After that, they selected a drawing from an 8-year-old girl who had created the image of a salt shaker and water on a heart-shaped piece of paper as her song request. The guys loved the creative request so much, they couldn't resist playing Fading West's "Saltwater Heart." They then elated more longtime, diehard fans by fulfilling another fan request with the performance of "Let That Be Enough," a moving and emotional song from their 1999 album, New Way To Be Human. It was easily a highlight of the night.
The whole first act of the show was laid back and intimate. Before wrapping up the first set, Tim chimed in that he wanted to hear a song that the band had been fiddling around with backstage. It was a cover that meant a lot to the Foreman family, as he recalled a moment where their father had pulled the car over one day to encourage his sons to listen to U2's "With or Without You" carefully as it played on the radio. Jon then playfully reluctantly performed the song under the pressure of his younger brother's prodding. It was definitely a fun moment of the night. After a short plug from Jon for Food for the Hungry, they performed "Dare You to Move," for which they dropped all stage lights and encouraged fans to hold the light of their cellphone high. An intermission then followed, allowing people to stretch their legs, grab band merch, or look into supporting Food for the Hungry while the stage layout was totally changed around for Act Two.
"Act Two: To the Skies," opened with the band stepping out to a stage only lit by a starry background, as they performed the lovely "Edge of the Earth" from the EP of the same name that released as a follow-up companion to their Fading West album and film. As the song kicked in, the backdrop lifted to reveal a beautiful, glowing hot air balloon dangling above the stage. The stage was arranged as if the band were on a ship of sorts, with the drum and keys risers bearing portholes and railings. "We Are One Tonight," from their Nothing is Sound album was a welcome surprise, and the band mixed in a little "Needle and Haystack Life" (from Hello Hurricane) interlude into the track as a sweet surprise.
"If the House Burns Down Tonight" is always a live concert highlight when Switchfoot performs it, and tonight was no different. The fast and fun anthem against materialism was a great addition to the set, followed by the rocking "Mess of Me," also from Hello Hurricane. Jon Foreman then took a moment to breathe and reflect on his youth a bit, recalling the trouble he found trying to fit in after his family moved across the country, and how he found his worth in his Maker. This served as a fitting lead-in to the ballad, "I Won't Let You Go," followed by "Live It Well," in which Jon asked Drew to perform a guitar solo before encouraging the audience to sing the chorus back to them. "Float" picked up the pace again, complete with Foreman unveiling a disco ball, spreading fragments of light across the theater walls, and a pair of funnels on either side of the stage that propelled a flurry of bubbles into the air. A plastic bird dangling on a wire then descended center stage, which bore another song request. Jon humorously removed a piece of paper from the bird's beak and announced that the request was "Happy is a Yuppie Word," also from Nothing is Sound.
At this point in the night, the band launched into a frenetic, fast-paced rock jam that felt spontaneous, but anyone who's seen them live recently will recognize this as the new intro into the biggest hit of their career, "Meant to Live." The catchy and nearly as memorable "Stars" followed, with Foreman pausing at one point to address a fan in the audience holding up a sign. Jon then took the sign in hand to share with the Hershey audience, revealing that the young man wanted to perform "Stars" with the band on stage. In response, Jon invited him on stage and handed him a guitar, and he joined Drew as the two tore into the infectious guitar riff from the song. After the fan left the stage, the band performed "Native Tongue," the title track from their latest album, before leaving the stage.
But what Switchfoot show is complete without an encore? The lights stayed low as the crowd continued to cheer, and the band inevitably returned for a 2-song encore, beginning with "Voices," and concluding with "Where I Belong," the band's emotional anthem for longing for our true home in heaven. While I prefer the original rendition of the song to the way they've been playing it live lately (including a different intro and then inserting the epilogue from "Native Tongue" into the song as a sort of bridge), it's still one of my favorite songs to hear them perform live.
Switchfoot and Their Fantastical Traveling Music Show is something really special. It's unlike any tour you're likely to have seen before, and it's a fun and unusual way to experience Switchfoot live. I still have fond memories of when Switchfoot was still a three-piece rock band, opening for the O.C. Supertones and playing just a straight-forward pop rock show. Their Fantastical Traveling Music Show is completely on the other end of the spectrum, without necessarily being a gigantic production for the sake of a gigantic, flashy production. With as big as the concept and even stage setup is for this San Diego rock quintet, it's still remarkably intimate. These guys continue to sing about God and hope and bring joy to audiences around the world, and this tour is no different in that goal. If you're a fan of the band, don't miss this celebration of Switchfoot's 22 years of making great and impactful music!
Switchfoot and Their Fantastical Traveling Music Show Set List
01. Hello Hurricane
02. Love Alone is Worth the Fight
03. Joy Invincible / We're Gonna Be Alright
04. Campfire Medley: Free Falling / I Want You Back / Under Pressure / Man in the Mirror / Back in Black / Chem 6A
06. The Shadow Proves The Sunshine
07. Saltwater Heart
08. Let That Be Enough
09. With or Without You
10. Dare You to Move
11. Edge of the Earth
12. We Are One Tonight / Needle and Haystack Life
13. If the House Burns Down Tonight
14. Mess of Me
15. I Won't Let You Go
16. Live It Well
18. Happy is a Yuppie Word
19. Meant To Live
21. Native Tongue
23. Where I Belong
Switchfoot VIP Pre-Show
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