The Franklin Theatre played host to two sold out Switchfoot shows Tuesday night. Both shows featured a screening of the band’s new film “Fading West” and an intimate concert at the historic theater.
As the lights dimmed, the band members stepped onto stage to greet fans before the early showing of “Fading West,” explaining to fans that what they were about to see was a surf film.
But what the band ended up creating is more than just a film about surfing. It’s a film about brotherhood, family, love, hardship, faith, travel and home.
The documentary follows Switchfoot on a world tour with stops in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, South Africa and San Diego, Calif. Along the way, the band catches some of the earth’s biggest waves, all while seeking inspiration for new material.
These new songs, which appear on the “Fading West” album, are heard throughout the entire film. The songs flow well with the expansive nature of the documentary and are sure to entice fans to check out the album once it’s released in January.
But for those unwilling to wait, three of the new songs are featured on the currently available “Fading West EP.”
The locations in the film certainly leave an impression. Sweeping shots of Australian sunsets, South African cliffs, Indonesian forests and rolling New Zealand hills are enough to have viewers wanting to book their next vacation.
As a film centered on surfing, “Fading West” does contain its fair share of surf scenes. However, these scenes prove to be mesmerizing thanks to excellent shots and production quality from the filmmakers. Viewers are put directly into the action, eye-level with the powerful waves and surfers attempting to conquer them.
With long hair, unshaven faces, cuffed jeans and untucked shirts, the guys of Switchfoot exude California cool. Yet it’s the band’s humility that proves to be one of its greatest assets.
“Fading West” depicts five men who aren’t afraid to admit they don’t have all the answers. The movie opens the door to the members’ personal trials, such as the struggle of being away from family during various misfortunes.
One particularly difficult moment occurs while the band is touring in Australia. Lead singer Jon Foreman learns his daughter must have emergency surgery. Immediately booking a flight to California, he agonizes over the multitude of hours it will take him to get home to his family.
But these hardships bring about a reflection on faith during the film.
“Faith and doubt are equally logical in the face of tragedy,” Foreman says during the film.
Yet it is faith which drives the band forward through difficult times.
Though several moments of the film are emotionally heavy, jokes are plentiful throughout. The audience laughed aloud several times during “Fading West,” clearly enjoying the camaraderie and tomfoolery among the band members.
By the end of the film, the five band mates feel like down-to-earth dudes viewers could befriend on the beach, not some Grammy Award-winning rockers.
This friendly-guy vibe continued into the next portion of the show, which brought the band out to play well-known hits as well as some songs heard in the film. And screen backdrops displayed scenery from the film during the performance.
By the second song, “Love Alone Is Worth the Fight,” the audience was on their feet. And the band paused between songs to answer a few questions fans had tweeted during intermission. Inquiries ranged from biggest ‘wow’ moments to best pranks. The intimate theater allowed for a conversational atmosphere between the audience and the band – something that is nearly impossible to achieve during large shows.
Yet the smaller setting certainly did not translate into less energy from the band or the audience. The band provided fans with a lively hour of tunes and audience members were engaged throughout the entire set, clapping, singing and swaying with the music.
Audiences responded well to favorites like “The Shadow Proves the Sunshine” and “Only Hope,” which Foreman said was written in Nashville.
“Hope is believing in a world you haven’t seen yet,” Foreman told the audience before leading into their well-known hit “Dare You To Move.”
During the encore, Foreman leapt down into the crowd, encouraging his band mates to join him. Encircled by the audience, the band played an acoustic version of “Hello Hurricane” and delighted fans sang along to the old favorite.
Switchfoot closed with “Where I Belong,” a song off their eighth album “Vice Verses.” During the song, Foreman walked among audience members, sharing high-fives with fans before joining his fellow band members back on stage to finish the tune.
“Life is short, live it well,” Foreman said during the film, claiming it as the band’s mantra.
Living well may not mean the absence of trials, but Switchfoot certainly appears to be enjoying the journey.
Fans can grab a copy of “Fading West” on DVD in December.