Looking for Europe 15: Birmingham – the cat is back!

November 1st

Ahh it was a tough morning; last night’s euphoria gave way to a battle of tiredness, anxiety, broken down buses and near-misses with trains, but thankfully Someone had it all in their hands, and we experienced travel mercies upon travel mercies, arriving in Birmingham much restored.

Over the last couple of days we’d had the ‘pleasure’ of seeing Birmingham New Street Station from pretty much every side, since it seemed to be bang in the way of everywhere we needed to go! Today we must have been round or through it another five or six times!! We went out for another pizza lunch, coming away smelling beautifully of garlic, and then had a little time to get a few pictures of KittyJon climbing some of the city’s eccentric public art. That set the tone for the rest of the day…

Circling New Street once more we headed down to the venue, this time a converted church tastefully decorated in turquoise, brown and gold, and fronted with statues whose facial expressions and body language provided us with a great deal of pre-show entertainment!

Today’s soundcheck was so funny. Right from the off, Tim and Jon welcomed us in, in Birmingham accents!! I could not believe I was hearing that out of their mouths! πŸ˜€

Then they soundchecked a Led Zep cover, claiming it was a new song! At that stage the sound wasn’t great so we could mainly hear guitars and yelling, though that was enough for it to sound good! Then ‘Questions, comments or concerns?’ Jude asked what was happening regarding the long-awaited 25in24 movie. Jon said he expected it to come out next spring: ‘It’s been a labor of love!’. I laughed and said ‘Take my money already!’ Then Tim joked ‘Maybe you could show the film 25 times in 24 hours, and film it, and make a film of the film…’ πŸ˜€ Jude said ‘So it’s in the can!’, and Jon for some reason, probably because it was Jude, heard cat! πŸ˜€ Then they went on to play Mess of Me, before spending a while trying to fix kick drum issues (apparently it wasn’t coming through in their monitors! I can testify that it was coming through the main speakers just fine!).

This was a special show for me; my 20th! I never imagined I would reach 10, and never in my very wildest dreams thought I’d be celebrating #20 the very same year! I made a poster for the Meet&Greet, with the stats from this 20-year journey, and the towns and dates of the 20 shows listed round the edge. It was made on the back of a campaign poster about bees (because.), so I thought I’d show them that too for amusement’s sake, and they spent a while enjoying both sides of it.

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Drew gave me a hug and said to thank M for the cookies, asking did he like the show? I said ‘Yes he did, and he will be here tonight too; and oh, if you’re taking requests, he really wants to hear Holy Water or Where The Light Shines Through? I hope I haven’t stopped you playing that one, as I didn’t mean to!’ Jon said ‘Ah those are great requests, especially because we actually know how to play them!’

As the guys continued to look through all the stats and dates on my poster Jon commented ‘8 countries! That’s a cool stat!’ I then pointed to ’18 years of fandom’, and I told them my story: It must have been 18 years to this very week, as 18 years ago on the 24th of October ’99 God saved my life, and to celebrate, a friend had given me a mixtape with New Way To Be Human on the very end of side B, which fell off the tape half way through! But I had eventually borrowed, and then bought, the CD, and here I was 18 years on! I told them it meant they’d been a part of my journey right from the start and it meant the world to me. I said ‘I have a lot to make back to you; I hope you’re feeling 18 years worth of support’. Jon highfived me and said ‘I’m glad you’re here.’ – in both senses I think. He thanked me for sharing my story. It was almost a throw away comment but he complimented me on the daisies I was wearing – and I said ‘Ah, they go back 18 years too! I discovered joy for the first time back then and needed to find a way to express it. What does joy look like? To me, it looks like a daisy. I’ve been wearing them ever since.’ That was special.

Then Jude had another funny photo taken, with the guys all wearing fluffy haloes! Putting his on, Drew asked ‘Is my halo straight?’! Afterwards we saw him put the halo on his daughter and get a cute photo of her.

Outside again, we got talking to her in the queue about snow and cold feet and cream teas πŸ˜€ She is such a sweetie, just like her dad.

The Alvarez Kings found the crowd weirdly quiet! They were really into the onstage pranking tonight, Simon throwing a bottle comedically at the drummer, and at one point singing creepily close into the guitarist’s face and kissing him! Jude was tonight’s human mic stand, and just as I’d found, she just knew beforehand it was going to happen and had been saying so! Simon definitely possesses telepathic powers!

After they finished, a very dubious tall and wobbly projector screen was brought forward to show Jon’s film promoting charity Food For The Hungry. The screen teetered precariously above everyone whilst the stage was being cleared and set up for Switchfoot, before we were given the spectacle of it being dismantled. It was… quite something! It was definitely one of those things that could have gone wrong in so many different ways, but thankfully, no incident!

Tonight I was stood between Tim and Jon at the barrier. As requested, and to M’s delight, they opened with Holy Water! The sound started out quite tinny unfortunately, which was maddening when I’d been waiting to hear this one live ever since first hearing it, but thankfully it got better. It went down very well with the crowd; you can watch it here.

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Then they again gave us Stars, and followed up with Oh! Gravity. Wow!! A photographer friend was stood behind me and I can’t tell you how creative I had to get, trying to rock out whilst keeping my hands out of her shot! I’m yet to find out if I succeeded or not…

We were treated to another improvised solo in YLIAS, then Jon again jumped into the crowd for Bull. As he got back up on stage, he hugged the security guy who helped him back from the barrier, then put his mic to Drew’s guitar, laughed and ruffled Tim’s hair roughly, clearly having a great time!

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As they reached the end of the song, Jon spotted the sign one of my friends had brought saying ‘Switchfoot is where the light shines through!’ being held up in the crowd. As he called it out, she then turned the sign round: ‘Do you love me enough to play my favourite song?’! Jon was taken aback! ‘Ohhh! Now I feel like I’m not sure which song you’re requesting! Pass that here…’ (it was handed forward and he held it up, Where The Light Shines Through outward) ‘I like this side! I feel like I know how to play that one! If we tried this one I’m not sure I know what would happen! It helps I know the words to Where The Light Shines Through…’, at which Tim laughed out loud and said ‘Don’t say that till you’ve played it!’ πŸ˜€

Well, with two requests now, they did indeed play it! I got my Europe flag out and was dancing with it on the barrier, using it as a prayer and not expecting it to be taken, but suddenly Jon was asking for it! So we threw it to him; he held it up, pointed at me and I gave him thumbs up, and heΒ threw it back – but it opened up and fell short of the barrier, and he did a funny ‘oops’ voice whilst singing! That was a little glimpse of ‘aftershow Jon’ right there! πŸ˜€ That solo was absolutely awesome again, and M was so happy he finally got to see it.

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I filmed Jon’s beautiful intro to IWLYG and I’m very glad I did. You can watch it here; just a taste of the amazing things he sometimes comes out with between songs. Then he did the ‘Lift your arms… and let them rest on the perfect stranger next to you’ thing – and then said ‘Now we’re no longer perfect strangers; we’re flawed strangers. Some of us smell worse than others; some of us are sweaty, ha! (he was dripping!) But we’re in this together.’ He is great.

During House Burns, Jon broke a string and switched guitar seamlessly. And he finally went to someone else for that line! I feel cheated on. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ Thus ends an almost unbroken run of about 8 shows I think! πŸ˜€

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Next they introduced the ‘fancy mic from the 1900s… way back… maybe ’99, ’97?’! Jon said ‘We have no control over when the storms come, but it’s about what we do in the face of the storms’, and they played Hello Hurricane, Chad at the end picking up his drum and walking back to the kit with the tambourine on his head.

And then the Led Zep cover! This time they introduced it properly, as Ramble On, explaining that they started out as a Led Zep cover band and were terrible! But ohh they make a pretty awesome Led Zep cover band today! Jon’s yelling was absolutely on fire!

During LAIWTF Jon again went back into the crowd… and climbed up onto the balcony, cat-like, as though gravity didn’t exist! If you could have seen the faces of security, and his amused bandmates..! At the end of the song Jon just sat looking up silently at the ceiling, as if wondering figuratively and literally where to go from here… And then he began singing Shadow Proves for a moment, before going into the second verse of Where I Belong again. And just when we began to wonder if he really was stuck this time, he suddenly turned and climbed down again, still singing, like it was no big deal at all, the crowd reaching up to hold his feet! ❀ Wow! He came back through the crowd up onto the stage and took my banner. I have so much respect for that guy!

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The encore was the same again, but oooh how Jon sang Float tonight!! As he introduced Live It Well he said this was probably his favourite show of the tour. And as they finished with Dare You To Move, Jon started with a yell, and we could really hear Romey filling out the sound; at times it was just him and Jon playing.

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Again the lights and pack-down music went up immediately and there was no encore. 😦

As I was leaving the venue I overheard the venue security fangirling! ‘…never heard of them before… he has a great voice… seems a really nice guy… did you see him crowdsurfing? He just floated back onto the stage, you see so many others really struggle…’!

Ohhhh yes. I am so happy for you, discovering Switchfoot! Welcome to the planet. πŸ™‚

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As there was no aftershow and their tour bus was parked elsewhere, we circled New Street Station one last time and got straight off to our hotel. It was such a great night, they had definitely done enough.

The following morning we had a lie in and large breakfast, before getting back on the road for our drive through beautiful autumnal East Anglia for our final show…

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