Friday, April 18, 2014

Switchfoot at Hard Rock Live Las Vegas

I recently attended a parish mission at St. Francis of Assisi in Henderson Nevada. Father Jonathan Morris was the presenter and he spent much of his preliminary time discussing the role of John the Baptist in salvation history and our in our individual lives (warning: there are several Johns in this post...Fr. Jonathan Morris, John the Baptist, and Jon Foreman). His call was to “make straight the paths” for the arrival of the Messiah. Fill in the valleys, level the mountains. Prepare your hearts for the One who is to come.

John’s message was not about John – much to the disappointment of the throngs of people who followed him out into the desert to hear him preach. He called people to “do what you know you should do” (thanks to Father Jonathan for this summary!). He was preparing the world for the Messiah and at the appropriate time, he told his followers of the Messiah’s arrival: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (see John 1:29). We are all called to be like John – to point the world to Jesus. These were the words filling my mind the days before I attended the Switchfoot concert on April 12 at the Hard Rock Live in Las Vegas. Words that connected with the concert. Words that challenged me to recommit myself to pointing the world to Jesus.

At a time when many bands attempt to play the part of messiah, singing their own praises and beckoning concertgoers to follow them like subjects of the pied piper, Switchfoot is a welcome reprieve. They have been criticized for not being "Christian enough." For not "praising Jesus" during their concerts, but this cricizm is, at best, misguided. Switchfoot points people toward faith in God in such a way that they appeal to both secular and Christian audiences. They bridge the gap between the two and stimulate conversation that can lead to conversion for both. For the Christian, their music is unmistakably Christian; for the non-Christian, their music is positive and hopeful - two things everyone needs. Like John the Baptist, their music prepares the way for The Lord. It draws Christians closer to Jesus and non-Christians closer to belief in a non-threatening way.

The Royal Concept opened up with a powerful and fun opening set. TRC is a good precursor to Switchfoot and a good band in their own right. They are an entertaining mix of hard rock and techno. Leadman, David Larson, connected with the crowd through his down-to-earth nature and frequent smiles. (By the way, band member smiling was a constant the whole night...everyone on stage was obviously enjoying themselves!). I didn't know any of their songs, but I liked them nonetheless. Each offering had a unique riff and well synchronized delivery. The lyrics, music, and band-to-crowd interaction made for a great experience. I imagine it is a difficult, humbling experience to be an opening band, but TRC did it with skill and enjoyment. They made me enjoy my experience even though I had been standing in line for a while and then standing in GA after that (my knees still hurt). They also found it important enough to hang out at their own merch table after the Switchfoot set. Good job The Royal Concept!

Switchfoot started their set after a smooth equipment transition (TRC actually broke down and carried off their own stuff...I guess this is another common trait of opening bands, but I liked it!). Say it Like You Mean it started off the set with a bang and the signature Jon Foreman hat came off pretty quick. Their set was pretty consistent with previous shows, but it didn't really bother me as much as I expected it to. They have over a hundred recorded and released songs, but have stayed pretty consistent with their setlist on the Fading West tour. In fact, I created a playlist to prepare for the concert and selected only songs that had been played at least 8 times on the tour (it made sense to me because there is a marked drop in play frequency from 8 to 4 after that...I'm not a statistician). The playlist only had 19 songs from the 38 tour dates. It turns out I was pretty well prepared!

Earlier on in the day, Switchfoot visited Zia Records (a local brick and mortar CD, record, merchandise store at Flamingo/Eastern in Las Vegas). They played a two song set including Hello Hurricane and Meant to Live. There were only about 25 people there and it was pretty awesome. I took my 6-yo son and he enjoyed it. Switchfoot hung out and signed CDs after the set and met everyone. Seriously, I was blown away when they left their signing table and started to walk down the line and introduce themselves to all of us. They were introducing themselves to us?? Very humble of them! I was actually pretty glad because I didn't know all their names....

Back to the concert though. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole concert, but I was particularly impressed and into three specific songs.

I didn't expect to get emotional, but this one really got to me. The lyrics, "your love is a symphony/all around me/running through me/your love is a melody/underneath me/running to me" just hit me somewhere down deep. Isn't is so true though? To be sure, we aren't always in tune, but God's love is intentional and well timed. When you look back at salvation history, you can't help but see how it all fits together. And it still does today. In my heart. In your heart. His love is the song that makes it all fit; makes it all make sense. Life is chaos without it.

Again, a little unexpected for me, but I can just feel the passion in this song. Especially for a band who was formed in San Diego and are all self-professed surfers. Saltwater runs through their veins. They belong at the beach. They connect with God at the beach. We can all relate to this song. "We're on your shore again/I can feel the ocean/I can feel your open arms/that pure emotion/I'm finally free again." We all have a place we call home. A place we can relax. A place we belong. This song strikes me as an anthem for all of us who are away from that home. In a bigger way, we are all away from home until we make it to our final destination. There we will feel his open arms. We will feel the ocean. We will be truly free! This song is pure genius.

Jon Foreman decided to leave the stage during this song. The discomfort of the security staff did not go unnoticed! What a fitting posture, however, for such a powerful song. Love is communal. Love must be shared. The lyrics and Jon's posture communicated this with clarity and passion. This song invites us to take risks to "find what we're made of through the open door" because "love alone is worth the fight." How true. How profound. We are called to love. Not only romantic love, but also love of neighbor. We need both. Thanks to Switchfoot, I was reminded of love's importance and cost.

Bottom line, I would recommend catching Switchfoot on this (or any future) tour. Take the kids and give them ear plugs (you should probably have some too!). Be prepared to catechize after the show. Switchfoot is committed to sing songs about hope and you can use their concert (and CDs while riding around I the car) to lead yourself and your family closer to Jesus. 

I also recommend the Fading West CD (along with all Switchfoot's other studio albums). Check out their popular songs on iTunes and go from there.

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