Show Review: Switchfoot with Anberlin and Atomic Tom at the Warfield, 10/10/2011

by Stacy Scales on October 12, 2011

Jonathan Foreman with his Vice Verses guitar

It’s been almost ten years since I was first introduced to the music of Switchfoot. At the time, I was living in San Diego and they were a local band on the brink of making it. Somewhere between frontman Jon Foreman’s distinctive voice and lyrics that inspired me to live fully, (“this is your life – is it everything you dreamed that it would be when the world was younger and you had everything to lose?”) I had found a band whose music I could never play too much. Sure enough, nearly a decade later, I continue to love each album as much (or more!) than the one that preceded it. Somehow, life has managed to keep me from ever seeing this band live…until last night. Finally, finally, finally, my time had come: Switchfoot and co-headliners Anberlin graced the stage at the Warfield in San Francisco with openers Atomic Tom, and what better way to spend a beautifully rainy Monday night than warm and cozy inside with a fantastic band?

Atomic Tom’s set started early, and right away I noticed a bit of a “West End boys” sound, like The Cure on antidepressants. At the end of the third song came an impressive guitar solo, which was followed by a pretty great cover of Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me.” The short set concluded with a few songs off their album The Moment, called “This is How We Like to End” and “Take Me Out,” the latter of which included a crowd singalong moment. Usually openers annoy me, and while I admittedly was already itching for Switchfoot, I did still manage to enjoy this band’s set, due largely to lead singer Luke’s great vocals. I’m looking forward to seeing where they’ll end up.

Next up was Anberlin, a 6-man band that sound a bit like vintage Tool. Their set began with “Reclusion,” followed by “We Owe This to Ourselves” and “Paperthin Hymn,” at which point I began to notice that a good portion of the crowd (unlike myself) was familiar with the music. Lead vocalist Stephen wanted the crowd to know that it wasn’t a Switchfoot show, or an Anberlin show, or even an Atomic Tom show – it was our show: to sing, dance, or do whatever we wanted, and he invited us to share the time of our lives with them before launching into the dark “Never Take Friendship Personal” and then the sexy, highly percussion-driven “Pray Tell.” Half the fun of this set was the amazing light show, which was never more evident than during “The Resistance,” with the crowd loudly clapping along with the beat. After “Art of War,” Stephen’s voice came out of the dark in what can only be described as a “Lay Your Hands on Me” style moment of breathy chanting. Unfortunately, from my perch in the back, his words were unintelligible, but it sounded cool all the same. As the band began to play the next song, “The Unwinding Cable Car,” a cheer rose up from the crowd in recognition. After “Alexithymia,” “(*fin),” and “Impossible,” another awesome light show led into “Godspeed,” at which point my friend and I declared Anberlin “Tool meets stadium rock.” They closed their set with “Feel Good Drag” and I felt the excitement of the headliner looming fast.

Finally, a black mesh curtain rose over the stage and the lights went down. We could see the shadows of Jon, Tim, Drew, Chad and Jerome, but even as they began with “Afterlife” off their brand new album Vice Verses, it was difficult to really see them. Finally, the curtain fell to their feet and the crowd went crazier than I’d expected. After “Stars” and “Mess of Me,” I was a bit shocked to discover they were playing “Selling the News,” also from the new album. With lines like “the fact is fiction” and “suspicion is the new religion,” the song would undoubtedly be well received in a city like San Francisco, but it makes me proud to imagine Switchfoot singing such a song in, say, Texas. It’s one thing to write lyrics like these and another to record and release them. But to play this song live where thousands will hear it? That’s sticking to your guns, and I respect them for it.

Up next was early hit “This is Your Life,” followed by new song “Restless,” for which Jonathan wandered out into the crowd. As the song ended, he again mentioned that they were from San Diego, calling San Francisco their “big brother up the coast,” and admitting he considered the Warfield to be one of the most beautiful venues one could ever hope to play. He then told a story about the first time he’d set foot on its stage, how he’d worn boots and tried to find his inner Bob Dylan. Unfortunately, after about four songs, he’d realized that his fly was down. He admitted to us that he knows he’s no Dylan, and that he’s just happy to see so many people singing along all the same. He then asked us to give “enormous, almost obnoxiously loud San Francisco applause” for Anberlin and Atomic Tom, which the crowd was happy to oblige. He went back to the stage for “Dare You to Move,” and then played the harmonica for the intro to “Your Love is a Symphony,” which was beautiful.

Before it began, Jon said that he wanted to dedicate “Dark Horses” to the homeless kids of San Diego and talked about Stand Up for Kids, a charity the band is passionate about, and thanked those in the crowd who’d brought backpacks to the show to be donated to the cause. He explained that the song had been written with these kids in mind, and the lyrics “wait! you can’t count us out… we’ve been down but we’ve never been out” took on a whole new meaning. After “The War Inside,” Jon spotted a sign in the crowd that said “We Love SF!” and wanted us to know that Switchfoot loves SF too, and then launched into “Meant to Live,” the last song in the set. The encore consisted of two songs, “Where I Belong,” which is the final song on Vice Verses, and “The Sound (John M. Perkins Blues),” which is inspired by the American Civil Rights Activist of the same name.

After the show, I had a mental image of that scene in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the cartoon version), where the Grinch’s heart expands a few times – that’s how I felt. I don’t know why I wasn’t able to see them live before now, but even so, it was well worth the wait. It was everything I wanted it to be and then some. As I left the Warfield, I saw Jon cross the street to meet waiting fans, most of whom were teenagers. It was unlike any celebrity interaction I’ve ever witnessed: no one screamed, and they were respectful, patient. I walked away with a quiet sense of peace, fulfillment, and satisfaction – not your everyday experience after a rock show. I can’t wait to do it all over again.

Switchfoot's set list

Stacy Scales

California native. Word nerd. Music lover. Linguaphile. Amateur foodie. Basketball junkie. Travel enthusiast. Future therapist.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Andi Galusha October 19, 2011 at 9:21 pm

The Warfield is such an amazing venue. I think the evening you described would be a perfect concert event. I wish I had been there! I heart Switchfoot!

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