Whether it's performing to 3,000+ fans in a packed arena or an after show performance to 30 or so people waiting outside the venue, Switchfoot's Jon Foreman is able to connect with the audience, no small feat for a musician.
Jon entered the small stage at Joe's Pub last Wednesday shortly after 7:30 with his guitar and harmonica while friend and fellow musician, Keith Tutt, accompanied him for the night on cello. I've never been to such an intimate performance before, and Joe's Pub is definitely a great place to get that up close and personal feel. The room was dimly lit by candles provided on each table throughout the venue as well as soft lighting on the performers. The stage at Joe's Pub is surrounded by tables and red plush couches on the lower level as well as more seating a level above where those in attendance can order dinner and drinks while listening to the night's performance.
Jon's set opened up with a question, which later seemed to be the theme of the night, on the topic of cereal from Spencer, a young boy from New Jersey who was eating with his family right in front of the stage. Spencer asked what each performer's favorite cereal was while Jon later joked, "I'm going to have a great time tonight because I love cereal too."
First song of Jon's set was "Southbound Train" from his EP, Fall. Keith began the song on cello while Jon joined on guitar and later harmonica. From the very beginning, Jon's vocals were strong and well-blended with Keith's accompaniment on cello. I couldn't get over how rich and full Jon's voice was throughout the night, never fluctuating or getting lost in the guitar or cello sound.
Jon joked that he wanted to start off the night with three songs in the key of D so he could get all of his head gear (aka harmonica) out of the way. While a few of the songs I didn't recognize, they seemed to be a preview of what is to be expected from his future EP's, Winter, which will be released Jan. 15 while Spring and Summer will be out later this year. Throughout a little over an hour set and 15 songs, Jon sang most of the songs from his latest EP, Fall, as well as some classic Switchfoot hits such as "Dare You to Move" with guest singer Anthony from Bayside and an encore performance of "Only Hope," which ended the night.
One song performed, "Learning How To Die" from his upcoming EP Winter, was explained as being about death and how a lot of us aren't learning how to live, we're learning how to die. Another song, "War in My Blood" is a song he's written with Sean of Nickel Creek, a project they call The Real SeanJon. "I've got some things going on with my friend Sean from Nickel Creek," Jon said. "Our goal is to get sued by Puffy. Puffy, if you're here tonight please sue us," he joked.
Perhaps the most emotional song of the night was "Somebody's Baby," which Jon explained is about a homeless woman that lives by his house whom he saw one day brushing her teeth outside. The lyrics and tone of the song are very somber when listening, especially after hearing the story behind the song beforehand. When listening to the lyrics during his performance and realizing the woman dies in the song, the mood is definitely a little heavy throughout the room. After he performed "Somebody's Baby," Jon told the audience, "I warned you it's sad," and then began playing Hank Williams' song, "Your Cheating Heart" - not entirely a happy song either. This song had a very simple guitar rhythm to it as well as a nice harmonica feature.
"'The Moon is a Magnet" is kind of a tongue twister for your fingers," Jon said before playing it and I definitely could see that while watching him play. He then played two songs, the first song being "Let Your Love Be Strong," from Switchfoot's latest album Oh! Gravity, which he described as being the question in the pair of songs while the second song played is the sequel to that song, or the answer to it.
Anthony from Bayside came out towards the end of the night to share the stage with Jon and Keith, helping out with vocals on "Dare You To Move." He said that Jon called him at 5:30 to see if he would sing the song with him. Anthony seemed a little nervous at first to help out with the song, but overall, his vocals were really strong and meshed well with Jon and Keith's performance. Jon then covered his favorite Bad Religion song, "Sorrow" and then segued nicely into "The Cure For Pain" as his voice resonated throughout the venue before his encore performance and one of my favorite songs, "Only Hope."
Opening act for the evening was Dawn Landes. Playing seven songs for about a 45 minute set, she definitely wowed the crowd with her strong vocals and guitar playing as well as the rest of her band on drums, cello and bass. I especially liked one of their songs, played completely acoustic, adding a tambourine to the mix. It was very simple, but well played with a cameo from the cellist. "Picture Show" was definitely an entertaining number, sounding very circus-esque with funny quips sung throughout. Last song of her set was the "Kissing Song," which encompassed a strong vocal sound as well as a beautiful strings feature. Her voice and performance definitely has a folk sound to it, somewhat comparable to Feist and Regina Spektor. Her album, Fireproof is due out in stores in March. Check out her MySpace here.
Extremely appreciative the entire night for everyone who came out for his performance, Jon told the crowd that he has been looking forward to Wednesday night for a long time. "This whole project has been a real dream for me. Thanks for being a part of it."
Be sure to check out Jon's new EP due out Jan. 15. For more info check out his MySpace.