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REVIEW: SWITCHFOOT: LIVE IN SAN DIEGO DVD

JOSH HURST

“You know what the difference between you and me is?” a smart-alecky Will Smith asks Tommy Lee Jones in the film Men in Black. “I make this look good.”

Showmanship. That’s what he’s talking about. It’s also what performers live and die by. Because while “style over substance” is certainly not meant to be taken as a credo, there is a sense in which music—specifically, live music—needs a bit of style to make the substance a bit easier to swallow.

It is in this area that Switchfoot has faltered, giving us the first real misstep of their career. The Sparrow/Columbia Records quartet has four solid rock albums under their collective belt, and I can personally testify to their skills as live performers, having seen them put on two top-notch shows in the past three years. Alas, on their first live offering, a concert DVD entitled Live from San Diego; the young band freezes, loses their footing, and fails to show enough showmanship.

Simply put, this DVD just doesn’t showcase the fantastic performances that this group is capable of. The band members seem uncomfortable and nervous, lacking the passion and charisma that makes their recordings and most of their live shows so enjoyable.

Their uneasiness is personified by frontman Jon Foreman, who comes across as timid and anxious in front of the camera. His nervousness even hinders his singing, which sounds scratchy and unfocused.

The song selection is just as unsatisfying. The track listing is simply a run through all the songs from their latest album, The Beautiful Letdown, minus one song (“Redemption”) and plus one older favorite (“Learning to Breathe”). It’s understandable that the band (or perhaps their record label) would want to include plenty of songs that Switchfoot’s newfound mainstream audience would know, but it’s still disappointing to see the band’s first two albums totally overlooked. Hopefully, next time a few older fan favorites will be included, like Switchfoot concert staples “New Way to Be Human,” “Poparazzi” and “Chem6A.”

It’s certainly commendable that Switchfoot has such an impressive studio track record thus far in their career. But that’s not going to be enough if they ever want to become a truly great band. Just go watch the new concert DVDs from U2 or REM; quite obviously, those groups have true showmanship and a knack for connecting with their audience. That’s what’s missing from the first entry in Switchfoot’s videography.

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