On a cold, snowy night in Edmonton, Alberta, the line to enter the 106-year-old McDougall United Church stretched from the front of the expansive, brick building down 101st Street. The close to 700 sojourners had braved the weather to see Jon Foreman
bring his own brand of soul-warming folk music. The crowd was a cross section of the modern Church: young hipsters searching for truth, young couples out on a date night and older folks who have been fans since the beginning who obviously know beautiful art when it is presented to them.
The question I asked myself as I made my way to the concert, playing Jon's most recent The Wonderlands
series of EPs and loudly singing along, was "why is a hip hop fan going to a Jon Foreman concert?" The answer is simple: excellent art cannot be denied.
My personal relationship with Jon's music is short-lived. Of course I've heard the classic Switchfoot
tunes on local Christian radio and in movie soundtracks, however, I never understood the artistry of Mr. Foreman until I first listened to the The Wonderlands: Sunlight
, and it was on this night that I would begin to get a glimpse of what true artistry is.
The stage was simple, a standard altar of a traditional church, with simply a guitar, a cello, a Bosendorfer piano and a drum kit, all in front of the stunning backdrop of an antique pipe organ. Joining Jon on stage was cellist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Keith Tutt and drummer Aaron Redfield. I did not know at the time the amount of talent on the stage.
Everyone present knew that tonight would be something special as they announced that the set list was going to be decided by the audience. Prior to starting, the crowd was invited to come to the front and write their requests on index cards. It was from these index cards that the set list would be chosen, an unconventional move for sure, but as Jon put it, if the audience didn't like the set that was played, he couldn't be held responsible since they chose it.
The set opened with "Before Our Time" followed by "Terminal" and then the classic Switchfoot song "Only Hope." This was just the beginning of the ride that we would be treated to as we all boarded the "Southbound Train" and headed for the moon, which (as I learned) is a magnet. We were all resurrected as we found where we all belong, which is in the "House of God, Forever." This was a particularly special moment as a young lady named Erica was asked to join Jon as stage to sing the duet.
We all paid homage to "The Patron Saint of Rock 'N' Roll" just before finding out just how beautiful we are. Things picked up with the Fiction Family favorite "Just Rob Me" and then the Switchfoot standard "Meant To Live." As things moved toward wrapping up, Jon, Keith and Aaron all unplugged and came into the middle of the crowd. While standing on a pew, Jon led us all in "All Of God's Children" and then started "Dare You To Move" prior to heading back to the stage after the first verse and completely amazing us with a brilliant acoustic rendition of the Swtichfoot tune. The show ended with a fitting time of prayer and reflection in the form of "Your Love Is Strong." As the lyrics moved through the Lord's Prayer, the audience began to lift their hands and worship along.
As the concert came to a close and the crowd stood to their feet to offer their thanks to Mr. Foreman for delivering an unforgettable evening, I couldn't help but look up to the cracking plaster in the old church. Just as some of the plaster in the old church wears and cracks and shows the scars of a life well lived in service to the Lord, so do our own spirits. On this cold night in downtown Edmonton, Jon Foreman delivered much needed medicine to those cracked spirits.
The complete set list can be found in the Spotify playlist below.