On Wednesday, Switchfoot and co-headliners Relient K came together for a powerful night of rock ‘n’ roll in Charlotte. And as it turns out, Switchfoot’s anthems of hope and honesty would be more than relevant enough for the Fillmore crowd.
The Queen City has become a center for social and political friction in 2016, prompting conversation nationwide. During this stop in the aptly-titled “Looking for America Tour,” Switchfoot’s lead singer Jon Foreman took the opportunity to speak and sing about the current racial and political climate of the country.
“America, are you out there?” Foreman, flashlight in hand, searched the crowd shrouded in darkness. The rock band’s performance at the Fillmore soon turned into a political platform, a church sermon and a camp fire — all rolled into one.
But let’s rewind a bit. Before Foreman and company graced the stage, Relient K kicked off the night with refreshingly authentic hits from their now 18-year career. The set, full of old (“Sadie Hawkins Dance,” “Be My Escape”) and new (“Air for Free,” “Mountain Top”), left the audience in a hip-shaking trance. Matt Thiessen’s long, curly locks basked in the colorful lights, as a Great White Buffalo statue maintained its curious position on stage with them.
All photos by Benjamin Robson.
Relient K’s music has always had wit and introspective intensity. Thiessen would belt memorable lyrics, like “it’s time I put down my devices and start to live my life,” or “afraid to admit, I might self-destruct.” Then, in a flash, he’d switch out of it, singing a song called Mrs. Hippopotamuses about their home state of Ohio. Whether autobiographical or jovial, their music has always tied back to maintaining faith and love. Relient K continues to have a passion and bounce that never seems to waver – even after 18 years.
Soon, Switchfoot led their charge. Eye-catching edited images appeared on a video backdrop, and a mysterious voice stated: “Tonight we’re looking for America and here you are.” Foreman, donning a black hat and nearly all black attire, jumped in and kicked off the show with powerful performances of “Holy Water,” “Meant to Live” and “Stars.”
Piercingly positive, he led an enthusiastic start to the band’s 15-song setlist. “Is it too early to start the party?” he asked the crowd. “Can we do this right now?” Switchfoot, like many other bands in their vein of folk-alternative, have added a touch of electronic beats to their recent tracks – making them louder and even more anthemic. It made for some powerful sounds, notably radiating beneath the feet of everyone in the venue.
But as the night went on, Switchfoot’s set took more of an insightful turn. Foreman, similar to Thiessen, made it a point to speak on the stories and the meanings behind their deep diving anthems. Before “Hello Hurricane,” he said that through uncontrollable storms of life, it is “your choice to sing into the storm.” And prior to “I Won’t Let You Go,” Foreman stated:
My dreams, my hope, my identity are not found in anything that Washington has to offer.
Fervent and inspirational rants about perseverance, faith, endurance and awareness filled the time in-between songs like rushing water. Images of injustices appeared on the screens behind the band during their performance of “The Sound (John M. Perkin’s Blues).” Switchfoot’s songs have never been about trivial matters; they’ve always had heft. In front a few hundred enthusiasts, Foreman exuded faith and frustration and love and emotion in both strong yelps, and in subtle speeches.
“Hope deserves an anthem,” Foreman said before draping a sheet with the words “Where I Belong.” Of course, Switchfoot played the notable hits, and ended their encore with the fan-favorite “Dare You to Move.” But Foreman’s deep and insightful messages, along with his noteworthy vocals, hit home the most for many in the crowd that night. After some confetti, bubbles and God-bless-yous, the night was over. But no one at the Fillmore, including Switchfoot, wanted the night to end.