Sam, Timberley, and I were in Lynchburg the last few days on a college visit for Sam at Liberty University. While we were there (and, privately, what prompted the visit in the first place), we saw Anna’s favorite band, Switchfoot. We never had the opportunity to see them with Anna, but have seen them three times now since we returned to the States. Each time we see them, it seems the show gets better.
Switchfoot had already became our family’s favorite band when we lived in Indonesia. We had their CDs A Beautiful Letdown (a gift from my brother), Nothing is Sound, and Oh! Gravity, as well as their first two CDs Legend of Chin and New Way to Be Human. I began to notice a difference in their lyrics from what we were used to hearing in today’s music. I still remember the day in our house in Semarang when I first heard the lyric to the song “More than Fine” from A Beautiful Letdown. “When I wake in the morning, I want to blow into pieces; I want more than just okay.” I knew at once that I needed to find out who these guys were. We were not disappointed.
Anna’s favorite song, I think, was “American Dream” from Oh! Gravity You can see in the photo below the colored hair bands she kept on her wrist. When I asked her one day if there was any significance to them, she smiled, looked at her brother, and sang out loud, “Red, White, Blue, and Gre-ee-een!” If you know the song, you’ll get it.
Their songs took on a new meaning for us after Anna’s death. I began to notice more carefully the intense tragedy of much of their music. It became very clear to me that the songwriter, Jon Foreman, has experienced significant loss of his own. How else would he be able to write “Amy’s Song” or “Yesterdays”? Another aspect of his music that was already known to me, but which took on a new life, was the immense debt Foreman owed to C.S. Lewis. Foreman had obviously read much of Lewis and he understood him. He understood Lewis’s portrayal of our lives as being in the shadows, but that we will one day see things as they really are. This was captured most clearly in the song Switchfoot did for the second Narnia soundtrack, “This is Home.”
And they did it again on their latest album, Fading West. The last song, “Back to the Beginning Again” features this:
“I can feel it building up inside/The images that play inside my mind/The dreams that I’ve been dreaming all my life/The colors that live outside of the lines/But dreams aren’t all I hide beneath this skin/The cord is cut, the fears and doubts begin/My hope is anchored on the other side/with the colors that live outside of the lines.” Foreman understands that this life is not all we have. And it is not even what we might call the real life. It is a shadow of what is really real. Where the colors live outside the lines.
Anna would have loved the concert last night. Her favorite part, of course, would have been when Jon Foreman came out into the crowd, as he always does. Tonight, however, he stood right in front of her brother, Sam, and essentially sang another of her favorite songs, “This is Your Life”, to him. In the middle of the song, he borrowed Sam’s red sunglasses and wore them for awhile until he returned them to Sam and went back to the stage.
If you get a chance to see their Fading West concert, I would encourage you to see it. If you don’t know their music, it would do your soul some good to get to know it.