The 90's music scene was a huge part of my youth. Shows were a regular occurrence- my brother and I would pile our friends in my Ford Taurus and travel a few hours away just to see a favorite band. There was something electric about those times-usually the cover fees were small, crowds were abundant, and everyone wanted to be there. Small venues were hosting well known bands because everyone was touring. Although I've been to many concerts in recent years, the climate has certainly changed. Concert atmosphere's have become a little more subdued and refined, more streamlined for the masses, and has left me a little wanting...
Until last night.
Switchfoot is a band I've followed since the early years. I'm no where near a bandwagon fan of this San Diego based crew, but neither a hardcore one either. Their music has consistently held quality lyrics with depth. They've never shied away from tough issues with an underlying tone of hope and positivity.
It was their first performance at The Ryman (the holy grail for musicians) and you could feel their gratitude at the opportunity to play the hallowed stage. Lead singer, Jon Foreman stressed the importance the city and musical community of Nashville has played and thanked the industry for 10 albums.
Straight out of the gate was "Holy Water", and I have to brag a little here--the first time I heard the new album, I declared--"they need to open their show with this song" so I felt quite validated when that actually happened. The growly anthem set the tone for a full set of their strongest tunes, from recent album, Where The Light Shines Through, as well as favorites such as "Stars", "Dare You To Move" "Love Is Worth The Fight" "John Perkins Blues", and "Awakening". These guys have been known for their range of straight up rock and roll, to laid back surfer sounds, to powerful ballads-and they delivered them all in fine form.
This was my first time to view them live and was in no way let down. The guys never lost an ounce of energy and Jon's banter in between songs was minimal, but profound. He subtly offers a message of hope, love, anti-violence, and peace without any preachiness.
Although he's a rocker-I wouldn't call Jon a showman. He purely enjoys the music and sings with an honest tone and clarity. His dancing and sliding across the stage on his knees kept the energy flowing without being gratuitous. Bringing me back to the good ole days of shows-it was heart warming to see a lead singer climb down into the crowd and singing from on top of speakers.
My only point of confusion was missing the song that titles the tour, "Looking For America" in which Lecrae lends his talents on the recording, and I thought his part would somehow be on the screen or played over, but the only mention of the lyrics happened when Jon shined a flashlight and said "America, I'm looking for you".
You never know who will pop up on stage at any Nashville show, and the crowd was surprised by a special appearance by guitarist Johnny Lang ripping an electric solo. Then then guys called down their long time sandman, Ryan and the crowd joined in for a rousing Happy Birthday. On the last song, Matt Theissen joined in.
Speaking of Theissen, the frontman of long time punk band Relient K opened the show with gusto. Their lengthy set was completely satisfying, mixing their classics and new tunes from new album, Air For Free. The set was turned into an almost backyard house party, including their bison mascot. Musically tighter than ever, newer tunes showcased their always powerful, poignant lyrics. The crowd enthusiastically sang along with classics like "Sadie Hawkins Dance" and "Sunny With A Hight of 75".
The arrangements of new songs "Flower" and "Runnin" were extremely impressive.
What an evening. Both bands left us with hope, nostalgia, and the feeling that they enjoyed it just as much as we did. It was a night for letting yourself feel the music, soak up the lyrics, dancing and fist pumping sweatiness--a feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself.
I mainly wanted to just enjoy the show, but snagged a few shots here and there, check em out-