If ever there was a gig venue that was aptly named it’s The Metro Club on London’s Oxford Street. Not only is it barely bigger than an underground train carriage, but the sweat flows down the walls and you have the opportunity to get deep and meaningful with other people’s body odour in ways that are usually reserved for the twice daily commute.
Invasions of personal body space and cheesy aromas aside, it is a genuine privilege to be able to see a band of Switchfoot’s stature in a subterranean box like this, and judging by the ear-to-ear smiles across the five band members’ faces, they are only too pleased to be playing somewhere different than their million plus-selling status usually affords.
Touring the arenas of America for the past year has clearly turned Switchfoot into consummate concert professionals (if they weren’t already), and frontman Jon Foreman, in particular, has the sold-out-and-then-some crowd eating out of his hand with such affable statements as: “Well, you sure clap in time better than the Americans, I have to say that.”
Unsurprisingly, most of tonight’s set is drawn from the breakthrough album The Beautiful Letdown. Bizarrely, this has not yet been officially released in the UK, although the near word-perfect singing along by virtually every member of the audience (including minor celebs like Delirious?) indicates that trans-Atlantic trade in quality imported music is alive and well. Either that or downloading is…
Whatever, tonight’s show is a masterclass in commercially savvy, pop-flavoured US rock. Opener Dare You To Move is a lesson in anthemy; the guitar riffs in Adding To The Noise and newie Stars are as succulent as the choruses are sweet; the summery, pop feel of More Than Fine provides a clever contrast to the serious nature of the lyrics (“I want more than just okay”); while more reflective numbers like The Beautiful Letdown, Twenty-Four and This Is Your Life not only feature profound, self-searching questions (“Are you who you ought to be?” – ponder that for a day), but use absolutely non-naff keyboard effects to enhance their pensive sound.
The highlights come in two songs that are at the opposite ends of the spectrum musically. On Fire sees Jon Foreman practically solo with his acoustic guitar and, as hyperbolic as it may sound to say so, is a truly spiritual moment for anyone with an inkling of what he’s singing about (“I’m on fire when You’re near me / I’m on fire when You speak / I’m on fire burning at these mysteries”). Meant To Live is equally special, but in an adrenalised, rocking, there-hasn’t-been-a-better-single-in-2004 kinda way.
During the encore, the very Third Eye Blind, funky rock shindig that is Gone, they sing: “Life is more than… rock and roll and thrills.” They’re absolutely right of course, but such was the level of thrills emanating from Switchfoot’s rock and roll tonight that you could have been forgiven for thinking otherwise.