Pondering Performance by Andy Shenk
April 24, 2012, 6:41 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , ,

Last week I attended a Switchfoot concert in the Twin Cities. That makes three live concerts that I’ve attended in my life, if we’re not counting orchestra performances or various cultural events that include music. Contrast my paucity of concert-going with the dozens of live sports events I’ve attended over the years and you’ll quickly see where my sympathy lies when it comes to spending money on live events.

While standing for an hour and a half in Northwestern College’s darkened Maranatha Hall, watching Switchfoot perform, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the differences between live sports and live music.

As the concert began I looked on with great skepticism, unsure of the level of passion, freshness, and excitement that the band would bring. Unlike a basketball game, in which the outcome is never known before tip-off and each play builds spontaneously from that which preceded it, a musical performance is always scripted, rehearsed and perfected. Could I trust the sincerity of lead singer Jon Foreman when he reached down to touch members of the audience from the stage or walked out into the concert hall to get closer to the crowd? Did this happen at every concert, during the same song?

When Switchfoot began to play their hit singles of years past, songs which I knew very well, I found my attitude shifting. I forgot about the band’s motivations and enjoyed the sensation of watching songs I loved performed live. I sang along with everyone else in the room, swayed back and forth to the beat, mesmerized by the choreographed light show projected onto the stage. The music spoke to me, as music that I love always will, and I appreciated the camaraderie of the crowd so clearly in tune with the moment as well.

There isn’t much more to say. Sports, as I shared, captivate me with their unpredictability and the honesty of the athletes’ pursuit. When the team or athlete I root for wins, well, that is just an unexpected reward. The staged nature of most live music, and other similarly scripted performances, on the other hand, will always leave me feeling a bit jaded. Fortunately, my soul is still stirred by art and beauty in almost any circumstance, and I value artistic or musical performers’ generosity to share with me their beloved craft on stage.

I wonder, where does writing fit in this discussion? The most scripted and controlled of any art form, it, nonetheless, has had the greatest impact on my life and is the medium of expression I wish to pursue professionally. Hmm.