Anyone who knew me in high school could tell you I had an over-the-top obsession with the band Switchfoot. I loved them. I had a picture of them in my locker. I needed both hands to count how many of their concerts I’d been to. I watched their video podcast. This is all a little embarrassing in hindsight, but they impacted my life in a practical way more than any other band ever did, or will. Everyone has that band, right? The one that inspires you, carries you through awful days and shapes a very important slice of your worldview.
Even after my obsession cooled, I still listened to Switchfoot a lot. They released a couple new albums while I was in college, and their lead singer/songwriter/philosopher/general genius Jon Foreman worked on a side project I loved called Fiction Family.
Last night, I saw Switchfoot play Terminal 5 in NYC. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Honestly, I was a little nervous the show would be a letdown. Maybe they weren’t as energetic as they had been. Maybe their new album (Fading West, released in January) was lame. Maybe it would seem like they were trying too hard. Maybe my high school obsession would be spoiled.
It turned out to be amazing. They rocked even harder last night than I remember them rocking at any of the concerts I went to in high school. Jon Foreman connects with an audience in such a special way. Seeing him onstage last night, running through the audience, climbing to the balcony, screaming, singing, I remembered what made him so incredible to me in high school.
One of the reasons I came to love Switchfoot was for the way they maintained a strong Christian faith without being preachy. Bands that just shouted “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” seemed cheesy and out of touch. Simply singing about Jesus didn’t mean you were living like him. I grew up going to Christian schools and maintain my faith today, though I’m not as public about it as I probably should be (I know for sure this is the most I’ve ever written about it here). By the time I got to high school, I’d heard a lot of talk. I was starting to feel an urge to live out my faith and do some good in the world. Switchfoot was the first group of Christian artists I encountered who didn’t care as much about talking the talk. They knew walking the walk sent a much deeper message.
Last night, as I listened to their music with fresh ears, the songs that first drew me to the band sunk in with new meaning. I left the concert wanting to love people more deeply, give so much more of myself to others, and live with an eternal perspective. The last song they played before the encore was Where I Belong. It’s about the final breath we take in this life, and even though it’s one of my favorites from their album Vice Verses, it had never taken such weight in my mind until last night. The lyric that got me envisions someone meeting God face to face for the first time: “…I want to tell you that I tried to live it like a song.”
Am I living my life like a song? Am I even trying to? Sometimes I don’t know. I use the excuses of busyness or tiredness or confusion, when it’s really just apathy. Today is all I have for sure. How much more productive to use that time loving others than wallowing in my own questions about what I’m supposed to do with my life! Showing compassion. Living life like a song.
I am grateful to have been reminded of that last night.
And on a lighter concert note…it also reminded me how much catching up I have to do with their music. They only played a few songs that were out during my obsession phase. Most of the others were from Fading West, which I promptly downloaded and dig so far. Love Alone Is Worth the Fight is my current favorite.
Last thing. In the midst of rediscovering my love for Switchfoot, I also rediscovered Jon Foreman’s brilliance. He’s the heart of the band (at least from my perspective) and has the kind of grasp on how to live out faith and connect with people from all walks of life that I hope to have someday. You know those questions like, “If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead?” Jon Foreman’s always at my table. His music has meant so much to me, and I am so glad he’s still making it. Here’s one of his solo songs for the road.