Appetite For Construction Tour Featuring:
by Susan Lloyd
Switchfoot, Relient K & Ruth
It’s not often that two incredibly talented and accomplished bands tour together and willingly share the stage, a vision, and even a song. And not only do these two bands collectively melt the faces off of concert goers each night, but they’ve also invited up and coming band Ruth to join them on the tour to do the same. All this musical majesty is happening right now across the country on the Switchfoot/Relient K/Ruth “Appetite for Construction” tour. Recently I was fortunate enough to catch this show not once, but twice as the tour visited two of my favorite South Carolina cities, capital city Columbia, and Greenville, the city where I grew up.
Relying on what I had been reading about this tour from interviews, reports, and eye-witness accounts from switchfoot “boardies”, I knew that without paper and pen in hand I would forget most of the mind blowing elements of the night. Plus, I’m horrible at remembering set lists, and I wanted to make sure I got that part right. So, at one show, with camera in hand and from the front row, I shot. At one show, I wrote. And at both shows I rocked my little heart out to some of the best known mainstream/Christian rock on the scene right now.
The alt-rock band Ruth, who hail from Washington State, began the night with a tight, well played set featuring stand out songs from their debut CD Second Hand Dreaming. Lead singer and guitarist Dustin Ruth also plays a mean harmonica, a skill he deftly demonstrated in the set’s opener, title track “Second Hand Dreaming”. But not only were listeners treated to harmonica, there was plenty of solid slide guitar in the next selection. Ruth’s vocals are spot on, and the tight harmonies the group is known for really stood out on songs like “I am Yours” and “Work it Out”. The set ended with the poignant “Mr. Turner” which Dustin described as a song of hope for those people you are constantly praying for in hopes that their hearts will change. And not only was the song amazing, the jam session that closed it was the perfect way to end the set with a lot of energy, setting the stage nicely for Relient K.
Ruth did its job and made sure the crowd was ready to rock out. After a few set changes, the lights went down, the crowd screamed, and Relient K introduced their set with simulated radio static alternating with intermittent snippets of familiar songs like Jefferson Starship’s “We Built this City”. With a lot of drama, the Relient K banner unfurling as a backdrop, and the fans screaming maniacally, RK hit the stage with the high energy “Consequences” and followed it up with crowd favorite “Devastation and Reform” Lead singer Matt Theissen used a distortion mike for a good portion of the song adding an interesting effect to the lyric. Lead guitarist Matt Hoopes had a platform to really shine in DAR and took full advantage of the chance to wow the crowd with his prowess on the guitar.
While DAR may have been Hoopes' chance to steal the spotlight, the impact of “The Best Thing” belonged to Thiessen who made keyboard work look like child’s play. Thiessen is a master at the keyboard and is completely comfortable with intricate patterns and keyboard runs that are played with the dexterity of a concert pianist.
Thiessen’s writing style is also stellar, and lyrically he is known for tongue in cheek overtones and humorous treatments of serious subjects. By introducing “In Love with the 80’s” by playing Tears for Fears’ “Head over Heels” and then later singing a tribute to the TV show “The Office” that incorporated the show’s theme song, Thiessen entertained the audience with not only his musical genius, but also with his sense of humor.
Relient K kept the energy alive through a stunning 15 song set that included one selection from their recent release “Let it snow, baby, Let it reindeer”. And snow it did!! As Thiessen’s band rocked out to “Sleigh Ride”, snow fell indoors on the concert goers. Yes, I said snow fell . . . and though it was fake snow, it was still a really cool effect. The set also included the opportunity for one lucky female to play guitar on the popular “Sadie Hawkins Dance”. A few other fans were pulled up on stage for the same song and had a blast playing percussion. One participant genuinely surprised Theissen and Hoopes by doing a back flip at the end of the song. Relient K ended the set with the powerful “Who I am Hates Who I’ve been” leaving the stage not just warm, but blazing hot and ready for Switchfoot to continue rocking out the house.
There are few bands who can create and maintain as much energy on stage as Switchfoot, and this night, fans were not disappointed with the showmanship of Jon Foreman and the adept musical skills of fellow band members Tim Foreman, Chad Butler, Drew Shirley and Jerome Fontamillas. I have had the privilege of seeing this band live several times over the years, and I can honestly say that, on this tour, Switchfoot has gone to the next level with an intricate light show, better sound, and innovative takes on concert standards.
The set began with the familiar guitar hooks of “Meant to Live” but morphed into the energetic strains of “Oh! Gravity” . Without missing a beat, “Stars” was up next, and it sounded even better live than the recorded version. Multi-tasker keys player Jerome Fontamillas switched to guitar for “Stars” and at one point, all four guitarists were standing on floor amps. Visually, this was a very powerful moment. Front man Jon Foreman knows how to keep a crowd engaged, and when the synthed opening notes of “This is Your Life” began, fans went crazy knowing that Foreman was about to use his guitar pick-ups as vocal mikes to amp his haunting voice at the beginning. “Gone” ‘mashed up’ with Beyonce’s huge hit “Crazy in Love” was a great follow up to the more introspective “TIYL” and showed that the ‘foot knows how to bring down the house and have some fun. In the Columbia show, Foreman even threw a little of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” into the mix.
Blazing out of the middle of the set list was the innovative, edgy “Dirty Second Hands”. I have to say that there is no way of really knowing what it’s like to see Jon Foreman go crazy on a cymbal while accompanied by Drew Shirley’s screaming guitar solo while frenetic strobe lights flash relentlessly unless you experience it first hand. Truly, this moment in the concert was mind-blowing and even having witnessed it several times this year, for me it had not lost one ounce of impact.
In addition to deafening crowd sing alongs on favorites like “Meant to Live” and “On Fire” another great concert moment happened when bands Ruth and Relient K joined Switchfoot on the stage to play the new song “Rebuild”. The song was penned by Thiessen and Foreman specifically for this tour, and it was obvious that a great camaraderie has built up between these bands as they thoroughly enjoyed their time on stage together. Jon even pulled up a young audience member to participate on percussion, saying that the kid was his “look-alike”.
Jon frequently enlightens and entertains fans with commentary that introduces songs, and according to him, “Head Over Heels” another fan favorite from their latest CD “Oh! Gravity.” made it to the set list by repeated fan requests. The song was added for this tour and sounded amazing live. Tim Foreman’s backing vocals were very strong and he sounded eerily like Jon on sections where he echoed the melody line.
As the ‘foot’s set ended, fans screamed, stomped, and chanted for the encore. The band obliged with a powerful version of “Dare You to Move”. Foreman began the song alone on stage and was joined by band mates for the second verse . . . but the audience was already with him screaming out every word.
There are a few dates left on the tour, and if you haven’t had a chance to catch this show yet, make plans to do so now. Less than halfway through Relient K’s set, my friend turned to me and said, “This is worth way more than $25” to which I definitely agreed. And the best part of the tour is that these three bands are raising money ($1 from every ticket goes to benefit Habitat for Humanity) and awareness of local Habitat chapters throughout the country. The energy, the message, the music, all passionately poured out on stage for the consumption of the fans was without a doubt one of the best experiences I’ve had in a while. I am eagerly looking forward to seeing all three bands in a live setting again, and whether its on a combined tour or their own separate tours, I’ll be there.
View more concert photos at Susan's Flickr page here
All photos copyright Susan Lloyd. All rights reserved. Do not duplicate without permission.
Susan Lloyd is a professional photographer in Charleston, South Carolina who specializes in shooting concerts. She holds a degree in Music Education and has worked as a worship leader and as a youth minister. She is passionate about all types of music and enjoys encouraging and supporting bands who seek to glorify God. She also loves movies, animals, traveling, and making new friends. She and her husband have three kids and have been married for nearly 17 years. More info about Susan's photography can be found at www.susanlloydphotography.com or www.susieq3c.wordpress.com