Switchfoot Play Earnestly in Detroit

St. Andrews Hall
November 2, 2006
In terms of pop music, an earnest artist (one who shows sincere and intense conviction) is an artist with tremendous pull. In the 1980s, U2's political convictions and un-ironic stage posturing attracted listeners alienated by the slick commercialism of new wave. More recently, Death Cab for Cutie has garnered legions of fans with their heart-on-sleeve indie rock and frontman Ben Gibbard's attention to lyrical minutia.

But however broad the earnest artist's pull is, it is also incredibly focused ˇ you either get it or you don't. You either pump your fist with Bono or shake your head, praise Gibbard for his specificity or deride him for his explicitness.

From what I can tell after seeing Swichfoot at St. Andrew's Hall on Nov. 2, I don't get the San Diego-based quartet because, as I see it, I'm not a teenage girl.

Piercing pubescent screams echoed through the Detroit concert destination even before the band strummed the opening chords of "Stars." The push to get to the front of the stage relented only to let the members of opening act Moses Mayfield clear the stage of their gear.

For what it's worth, the intensity of the crowd was matched by Switchfoot's performance. Lead 'foot Jonathan Foreman joined the crowd several times, at one point scaling the PA speakers in order to reach the St. Andy's balcony and hand out high fives to all takers. It's nice to see a rocker so in touch ˇ literally ˇ with his fanbase, even if his on-and-offstage antics feel cribbed from a particular sunglasses-clad Irish singer/international diplomat (hint: his name rhymes with "mono").

The band compensated the crowd's loyalty with a set of mostly newer songs spiced with a few "old school" tunes like "Company Car" and "Learning to Breathe." Much of the road-tested material was plagued by a distressing sameness, but the cuts from the upcoming record "Oh, Gravity!" showed some promise. "Dirty Second Hand" saw the band toying with some dark country textures, while the disc's title track was an effervescent slice of hard-to-hate power pop.

Unfortunately, they followed that up with the vanilla post-grunge crunch of "Meant to Live," the opening riff of which created the night's loudest wave of crowd noise. Switchfoot need not worry about leaving one music reviewer unimpressed by their live show ˇ they've got an entire concert hall's worth of people who left feeling just the opposite.

Writer: Erik Adams

Photo:Erik Adams

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