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Another Switchfoot Concert

Last night, as you might know, I went to see Switchfoot for the second time on their Beautiful Letdown tour. I wrote some thoughts about their Toronto show here. Last night they played in Hamilton, a city about half an hour from home. While the tickets said the show began at 8 PM we found out when we arrived (a bit before 7) that it actually didn’t begin until 9, so we had lots of waiting to do. And of course there were no chairs. By the end of the show my friend Dan said “I don’t think I’ve ever stood from 6:30 to 11:00 before.” I hadn’t either until last night.

In comparison to the Toronto show, last night’s was, well, the same but different. The crowd was equally enthusiastic about the band but a bit more sedate. The sound, while still awfully loud, was (thankfully) just below the ear-bleeding level of the last show. Strangely, it seemed that the sound guys kept the vocal levels quite low while adding ridiculous amounts of reverb. It meant that on some of the quiet songs it was quite difficult to understand the vocals. Other than that, the sound mix was very good.

A local band called Turn Off The Stars (formerly known as Simple Roots) opened the night with their brand of alt/rock. The guys gave a good performance, playing about 10 songs. I quite enjoyed them and will keep an eye out for their CD. I couldn’t be certain, but I guessed they are Christians as there seemed to be a distinct spiritual aspect to their music. Also, the guys seemed very normal and nice – there were no big egos there. This morning I found an article about them that shows they are clearly a bunch of Christian guys. Also, their Web site shows that they have a booking agent specifically for playing church dates. They mentioned last night that their new single is headed for Much Music (Canada’s answer to MTV) so that must be exciting for them. As an aside, their drummer bore a striking resemblance to Clay Aiken of American Idol fame. Strangely enough their lead vocalist bore a passing resemblance to Ryan Seacrest of the same show.

But of course we were all there to see Switchfoot, and once again they did not disappoint. They played most of the same songs as the last show with just a few exceptions. We were privileged to hear two new songs, one which they had played only a few times and the other which they had never played publicly. The first was called Hit The Lights, Look At The Stars (or something similar to that). It was a loud, rocking tune with an anthemic chorus. I hope it makes its way onto their next album as it sounded like a great song. Of course it is always difficult to know how a live song will transition to the studio. The second was inspired by some words of Johnny Cash and was called Happy Is A Yuppy Word. It was a mid-tempo song that wasn’t terribly exciting. I suspect it is one I would need to read the lyrics for to really understand.

The set list was something like this, though I’m sure the order is not quite right.

Dare You To Move
New Way To Be Human
More Than Fine
Hit The Lights, Look At The Stars
This Is Your Life
The Beautiful Letdown
Happy Is A Yuppy Word
Meant To Live
Gone (Encore)

Perhaps the most exciting part of the evening was when Jon mentioned that they are gearing up to record their next album. He said that he just found out that the album is set to be released in May but they haven’t even begun recording for it yet and asked if anyone had a basement studio they could borrow for a while. So you heard it here first! There should be a new Switchfoot album set for release next Spring.

I noticed on the band’s Web site that their booking agent booked their show for this evening in Vancouver, so the poor guys had to get from Toronto to Vancouver overnight in order to make that show. As I looked at them up on the stage I wondered how they do it. How can they dedicate themselves to their music, traveling from city to city, playing the same songs time and again and knowing that each crowd wants to see them at their best? It must be so difficult to have to bring their “A-game” each and every night. I can hardly imagine a more difficult life.

Digging around the Net today I found a couple of quotes from Jon I thought I’d share. The first I like just because it is funny and speaks of something that should be true – that Christianity really should not have great commercial appeal.

The kingdom of heaven is comprised of the broken, the fatherless, the poor, the starving… Nothing that could create good ratings for NBC.

The second quote I like because Dan and I had this very same conversation last night. As we left the show he asked me to define Christian music and I told him that there really is no such thing, simply because the word Christian speaks of something that can only be experienced by humans. A book, a song, a t-shirt simply can’t be Christian. Here is what Jon has to say about that:

To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that it represents a much bigger issue than simply a couple SF tunes. In true Socratic form, let me ask you a few questions: Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonata’s Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds. The view that a pastor is more “Christian” than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed. These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty. Many songs are worthy of being written. Switchfoot will write some, Keith Green, Bach, and perhaps yourself have written others. Some of these songs are about redemption, others about the sunrise, others about nothing in particular: written for the simple joy of music. None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. No. Christ didn’t come and die for my songs, he came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing. I am a believer. Many of these songs talk about this belief. An obligation to say this or do that does not sound like the glorious freedom that Christ died to afford me. I do have an obligation, however, a debt that cannot be settled by my lyrical decisions. My life will be judged by my obedience, not my ability to confine my lyrics to this box or that. We all have a different calling; Switchfoot is trying to be obedient to who we are called to be. We’re not trying to be Audio A or U2 or POD or Bach: we’re trying to be Switchfoot. You see, a song that has the words: “Jesus Christ” is no more or less “Christian” than an instrumental piece. (I’ve heard lots of people say Jesus Christ and they weren’t talking about their redeemer.) You see, Jesus didn’t die for any of my tunes. So there is no hierarchy of life or songs or occupation only obedience. We have a call to take up our cross and follow. We can be sure that these roads will be different for all of us. Just as you have one body and every part has a different function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each of us belongs to all the others. Please be slow to judge “brothers” who have a different calling.

I will leave you once again with my recommendation for this tour. If Switchfoot comes to your town, do yourself a favor and get out to see them.

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