From the Rubble to the Ritz – Switchfoot Rock Manchester

Tom Gore

At a near full to capacity HMV Ritz on Monday 7th November, Grammy nominated San Diego rockers Switchfoot hit town for the first UK gig of their tour across Europe and America to coincide with the release of their latest, and eighth, studio album Vice Verses. Their philosophical lyrics, with underlying subtle Christian themes, combined with loud guitars and a driving rhythm section have seen the band build up a wide international fan base over the years, breaking free from the shackles that have often restricted other ‘Christian rock’ bands in the past.

Looking every inch a band that have been together for fifteen years and totally overshadowing Irish, yet oddly American sounding, support band In Case of Fire, Switchfoot were welcomed by the audience to rapturous applause from their eager fans. Most of the songs that the band performed on the night consisted of material from their most recent five albums, an even mix of rock anthems and more slower-paced fare, providing a nice variety of songs for the band’s set.

The show started strongly with energetic opener Mess of Me kicking off proceedings, followed by an extremely impressive lights show during Stars which helped to create an electric atmosphere that lasted throughout the entire hour and a half that the band were on stage. It has to be said that lead singer Jon Foreman and his ability to work and interact with a crowd also helped create a fantastic rapport between the audience and the band and showed how crowd participation and interaction is an integral part of Switchfoot’s live shows. Foreman made several forays into the crowd during the gig, performing one number closer to the exit than the stage, and it was great to see a lead singer of a band wanting to wholeheartedly embrace and get close to their fans through actions rather than words. Considering the passion for his job doesn’t seem to have ebbed at all after fifteen years, it therefore makes Foreman a rather endearing figure.

Other set highlights included This Is Your Life, which saw Foreman get his harmonica out and bring a Spaghetti Western atmosphere to a dark and rainy Manchester night, whilst a cover of Lucky Man by The Verve was a nice surprise inclusion. If the pace of the numbers started to lull ever so slightly two thirds of the way through, then the rendition of extremely catchy new single, Dark Horses, saw the atmosphere step up another level, which reached its peak when they performed Meant to Live. The song drew a deafening reaction from the audience, with Foreman holding up his microphone stand to let the crowd bellow the chorus in his direction and, after the band were roared back out for an encore, they closed with another fan favourite, The Sound.

After experiencing them live, it would appear that Switchfoot are one of those rare bands who actually sound better performing on stage compared with their records, and it’s a live experience that should be seen first-hand. It’s no wonder the gig was switched from the Academy 2 to The Ritz prior to the day, and you could easily see them doing the same set in an arena like the M.E.N. which would arguably be even more suited to a band like Switchfoot considering how anthemia many of their songs are. If the band can build on their fan base in the UK and get the chance to perform at the biggest arenas across the country, it would be an opportunity that their live shows would merit.


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