Photos by Joel Barrios
If one were to have taken a survey of Generation X trustees of the 90s alternative rock craze on their thoughts regarding a time when said music would pass into classic rock status, most might have laughed at the very suggestion. But now with nearly 3 decades having passed since the rise and fall of the Seattle grunge scene and the subsequent rise of post-grunge, many of those same rebellious youths whom originally staked their claim on the rock genre would be introducing their families to the same bands now in the throes of middle age. Yet when putting aside the advancing years of the musicians whom helped forge the sound most readily associated with the 1990s, there is little wanting in the way of energy and creativity for those still actively in the game, and this goes doubly so for one of the earliest offshoots of the sound pioneered by the likes of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, namely Atlanta, Georgia’s own Collective Soul. This is a fact that scores upon scores of concertgoers in Pompano Beach, Florida would learn firsthand on September 16th, 2022 as said southern icons and their younger California-born squires and eclectic masters in their own rite Switchfoot rolled into town.
The pairing of these two bands in a touring capacity makes a great deal of sense given the general positive energy that they bring to the table, with Switchfoot having an early connection to the Christian rock scene, whereas Collective Soul was tangentially tied to it via the entertainment media due to the inspirational lyrical content. Nevertheless, when the former took the stage, this positive energy was coupled with a level of force and heaviness that was quite intense compared to their studio output. Whether one credits it to the largess of the stage they occupied, or the kinetic energy that the crowd transmitted to the bad with their avid applause, Switchfoot would be in the zone for their entire performance. Lead vocalist Jon Foreman would prove both a highly charismatic performer and also a witty orator between songs, frequently making quips about the band’s highly varied repertoire, and often capitalizing on the air of nostalgia that hung in the air with a number of asides about coming up in the 90s, not the least auspicious being a highly complementary nod to the Collective Soul. Bassist Tim Foreman and guitarist Jerome Fontamillas were bundles of energy, freely frolicking and head-banging about the stage, though Jon would largely steal the show with his even more involved stage activities.
The resulting set that would see this animated quartet bringing the thunder down upon South Florida would underscore both Switchfoot’s dedication to stylistic variation and driving down 90s rock memory lane. Things started off with a resounding bang via the funky yet fierce “Take My Fire”, one of their newer entries off 2019’s “Native Tongue,” and the heavier tone of the arrangement made for an interesting contrast with the fuzzier quality of the original studio version of the song. On the other hand, the generally driving and hard rocking banger in 2005’s “Stars” that followed would fit the 90s motif a bit more consistently, and would provide the perfect segue into a set that would split equal time between exploring this outfit’s expansive back catalog and also covering a number of seminal classics from the 90s. True to form, a raucous rendition of Beastie Boys classic “Sabotage”, complete with a perfect imitation of Ad-Rock’s boisterous timbre courtesy of Jon Foreman, would find said front man jumping the barricade and proceeding to complete the song and two more originals from amongst the crowd. Upon things setting down, a riveting acoustic medley of several familiar classics, including by not limited to Ray Charles’ “Hit The Road Jack”, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” and Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” would stand between the aforementioned pandemonium and an equally energetic set of six more Switchfoot anthems, with the hard rocking beast “Meant To Live” drawing the loudest response from the crowd.
SWITCHFOOT Photo Gallery:
With such a high bar having been set, expectations would normally have worked against any band seeking to take the stage, but Collective Soul is not a band that lives in a world where things go normally. Those old enough to remember the days when this outfit was coming up in the recent aftermath of the grunge explosion might well remember a larger than life stage persona being exhibited by front man Ed Roland via the music videos of noted singles such as “Breathe” and “Gel”, but the flamboyantly colorful getup he would sport against the plainer clothes of the rest of the band alone rose to a new level of auspiciousness, with the massive hat and glasses on his head being all but pure gravy. Yet when the rubber hit the road, this southern quintet’s unique visual presentation was a small detail alongside the stellar musical performance turned in by all involved, with the highly dynamic yet almost nonchalant quality of Roland’s larger-than-life baritone standing in front of a dense foundation provided by bassist Will Turpin and drummer Johnny Rabb, with the solid riff work of brother Dean Roland and the vintage shredding solo work of lead guitarist Jesse Triplett rounding out a sound that rivaled a studio recording in terms of polish and precision.
In contrast to the often funky and occasionally pop/hip-hop trappings accompanying Switchfoot’s original offerings to the table, Collective Soul would present more of a standard hard rock-grounded repertoire, though they wouldn’t be fully averse to throwing in a few curveballs. High-octane cruiser and recent release “Cut The Cord” would set the tone on a decidedly hard and heavy note, and the subsequent performances of older bangers “Heavy” and infectious new entry “All Our Pieces” maintain the same level of energy and flair as Will Turpin attempted to match Roland’s flamboyance with his own on stage high-jinks, including some well-timed leaps from the drum risers. But it would be with the entry of seminal classic and mid-90s post-grunge smash “Shine” that the audience would go into full frenzy mode, never letting up even when mellower classics like “The World I Know” and “December” came to the fore, with Ed donning an acoustic guitar alongside brother Dean and virtuoso Jesse in a manner reminiscent of Boston. Holding firm to the 90s nostalgia factor, they’d also offer a killer rendition of R.E.M.’s “The One I Love” and also reached further back with a homage to the original singer-songwriter in “Bob Dylan Where Are You Today”, also proving to be a highlight moment of crowd interaction as Ed recounted the inspiration for the song in a manner that was both poignant and humorous.
Rarely does it occur that a pair of bands so totally live up to their names, as the spectacle that unfolded on Pompano Beach was an exercise in shifting gears rapidly while both getting on the good foot and coming together in one celebratory spirit. Often the 90s are remembered as a time of generational resentment and socio-political disquiet, but the picture that was painted here betrayed a level of optimism and joy that was more comparable to that of the rocking 70s. To be fair, both Switchfoot and Collective Soul were not averse to exploring serious territory and even adding a touch of melancholy into the auditory canvass, but the level of elation and camaraderie that was inspired definitely spoke to a spirit of optimism that generally typified the decade once the alternative rock scene branched out beyond the Pacific Northwest. It was a grand occasion that spoke to a very specific time and generation, yet was equally accessible to those who were too young to have originally lived it.