(The last of five posts from my adventures: Part 4 here)
Mannheim, 4th June: My final show
We went straight from Munich to see friends in Freiburg in southern Germany for a few days, during which we were seeing Switchfoot for the last time in Mannheim, just to the north. We had a fun few days there in extremely hot weather, lake swimming and exploring the area.
The gig day felt like the hottest day possible! We found a tour poster on a billboard right outside the venue, so M got a photo of me next to it, with the venue and tourbus in the background, wearing my (signed!) Spring t-shirt and other fan gear 🙂 We were totally melting in the heat both on the way there, and waiting in the queue outside in the sun.
But – we connected!! 🙂
This time they opened the set with When We Come Alive, which was really nice. I didn’t capture the set list this time but they also played Meant To Live, Stars, Love Alone Is Worth the Fight (during which Jon came over to where I was stood at the side of the stage and sang part of it ‘to me’, holding eye contact with me till I broke out in a huge silly grin before moving on :D), Dark Horses, Who We Are, Hello Hurricane (with a very surreal intro with drummer Chad on his own!!), Dare You To Move, The Sound, Let It Out and Your Love Is A Song. We were also given a new version of The World You Want, (somewhat imperfect video here!) which was really, really nice. That’s a song that I find very inspiring already, so it was great to get a new version that was even better than the original.
As an encore they finally played us BA55 – it was total immersion in sound, complete bliss 😀 I just stretched my hands up and soaked in it 🙂 And then Where I Belong – I got the banner out as soon as it was clear they were about to play it and Jon came straight over and took it, and commented on it again, held it up, and looked at me for a moment, then looked round the crowd and spoke about how he’d met people from all over Europe on this tour, and so many new family… 🙂
The crowd was really hyped up again, less insanely energetic than the Vienna crowd but just – they wouldn’t stop!! Any song they could keep on singing they did, Love Alone wouldn’t end, as they kept ‘ooh’ing and Jon had to pick it up again and end it twice 😀 At the end they kept singing Hello Hurricane until they got an encore, and then wouldn’t stop singing ‘oh ay ohh ohh’ from Where I Belong afterwards, even after the second encore (We Are One Tonight/Shadow Proves The Sunshine), even when the crew were packing down the stage! They kept it up without faltering for at least 15mins, until Jon was ‘deployed’ from the stage to clear the venue by means of aftershow!! 😀 😀
The aftershow was beautiful again! I was at the back of the venue as Jon came out from the stage; I lost him in the crowd pushing to the door but happened to end up right behind him going out, so was right at the front for the aftershow for once 🙂 He played on the grass bank outside the venue, by the road (resulting in much comedy from loud passing traffic). We got Only Hope, Vice Verses, Terminal (‘this one’s even softer – you’re probably the only one who’s going to be able to hear it!’ ‘well, fine with me, it’s my favourite song of the moment!’), This Is Home, and Your Love Is Strong.
Afterwards since I was right at the front I jumped straight in with my chance to hand him my thank you card, but he was thanking me again and I found myself clasping his hand and telling him how much it meant to me – I couldn’t let him ‘out-thank’ me again. However much appreciation I was giving to him, I was getting it back for just being there, I couldn’t out-give the guy! Incredibly I *almost* got a shout out in front of the whole crowd from Jon for being at so many shows, (I forget exactly what he said, I was in shock, but it was along the lines of ‘this girl… she has been here the whole…’) but he got interrupted by someone asking if he’d bring Fiction Family over here 😀 Which I seconded! 😀 Probably good he was interrupted, I think I’d have fallen through the floor! I was so glad I’d written that card!
I can’t remember how but we ended up in pretty much normal conversation briefly as he went to leave, I said it was my last show of the tour, and he asked which had been the best – either this one or Edinburgh, and then said goodbye, and I let him go this time. It felt like a total breakthrough!!!
Then things got surreal – I ended up waiting with M and a couple of others for the bus to leave, but everyone was super relaxed so it was ages this time! Some German guys started singing spirituals on the grass, M and I joined in; the bus driver came out and did a silly dance to our singing, and then whacked ACDC loud on the bus speakers, at which M went off headbanging and air guitarring! We sat on the grass under the Where I Belong banner whilst the bus driver and Ike joked about. Then the guys came out one by one, Jerome first to chat to us all, he came up to me and thanked me, he’d read my card too! 😀 I shook hands with them all, thanked them again, managed to have a funny conversation with Drew since he was in smiley mode, and then a final thank you and goodbye to Jon. As the bus pulled out we noticed someone had written ‘SWITCHFOOT’ and ‘I made a mess of me’ in the dirt on the back 😀
We went and sat by the river, waiting for our 4am train back to Freiburg, M praying with his hands in the water as he sometimes does to mark journeys, me wearing my Where I Belong banner and trying to process what just happened 🙂 All the bittersweet had gone, all was well.
‘Forget sad; I’ll stick with happy’ 🙂
So; my reflections on the whole experience:
I think sometimes we don’t know how broken we are till we are healed, or how much of a weight we’re carrying around till it’s lifted.
It’s no less strange to me than it is to you that I should feel like this essentially about music, but the fact stands. Jon Foreman’s work has been so much a part of my life for almost half my life that never expressing the appreciation I have for him and all he does had become a huge burden on my soul, and I’m now feeling such an incredible sense of peace, freedom and release.
This couple of weeks has been an amazing journey, more so within me than the physical journey around Europe. I began as an awkward, emotional, freaking out fangirl, with Jon being very patient and gracious with me but, I sensed, wisely just a little wary of me too. By the end of the trip there had been a real breakthrough; I was, and am, still in awe of him but it all felt a lot more comfortable. I was getting genuine smiles of recognition, semi-normal conversation, and a sense that he was really feeling loved and grateful for the support I was giving. It blows me away to think how quickly and easily things turned around, after all these years and all my worrying, and that I broke through into not just making contact with him but actually finding myself ‘in the family’, a precious middle ground between random fan in the crowd and genuine friendship that I don’t think I’d fully appreciated even existed before it happened. Nothing that happened was outside of Jon’s standard behaviour with fans; he’s famously very good with us, I’m not special, and I don’t care! But what it meant to me was that my message had got through, and that means everything to me.
I’m going to slip into religious language, not because I think this guy’s the messiah; far from it! But it seems the best language I can find to describe what happened. And he is my saint, in the best possible sense, not someone perfect and unreachable, but an ordinary, imperfect human being who is just a little further along the journey in most respects, and whose example and ‘teaching’ is pointing me in the right direction and showing me The Way.
Anyway. This journey has been a pilgrimage of repentance, and a quest to atone for my past failings as a fan. I could never have hoped for as much grace as my repentance has been met with, to be not just forgiven but to feel like none of that matters any more, that I have a new start and am accepted as ‘family’, with thankfulness coming back at me as fast as I can give it away. I feel like I’ve been able to make back a lot of lost time, and that I’ve brought the fan relationship right up to date. I’ve now seen Switchfoot six times in 15 years, during which I’ve met them to say thank you four times, and they know I’ve been supporting them all this time, and know what some of their music has meant to me over the years. Far from being over, it starts here, whatever I’ve been before, right now, I am part of the fan family and will continue to behave like I am. So much grace, it’s overwhelming.
And God’s grace behind it! The whole experience has brought the love and grace of God home to me so powerfully as a faint picture of how he relates to us, responding to our every attempt to reach out to God in love with ever more love towards us, a dance in which God is always a step ahead. Perhaps in our own imperfect way we’re picking up the steps of this infectious dance. It’s unthinkable that God could care about such a ridiculous aspect of my life, and yet God does care! All the time we were singing Your Love Is Strong it struck me as I sang ‘You know what I need’ that God really does know what I need, and was supplying it freely, and the whole experience has given me new insights into God’s grace, reminders of the greater redemption I’ve experienced in Jesus’ acceptance of me.