Performance vs. Expression

May 1, 2012

At a concert I was at the other night, the headlining act came on stage, and was very good… they definitely had their act together. The singer had this great stance in the middle of the stage, and was nailing the vocals. At acoustic breaks in the songs, stagehands would bring an acoustic out for the 8 bars of the break for either the bassist or the guitarist to play during the low-key part of the song, and it was very slick. The drummer had his chops down, and would bounce the sticks off of the drums rather regularly, catch it, and keep going.

The performance was really, really good, and I was quite enjoying it.

Then some things seemed to go wrong… the audio never completely cut out, but things started sounding a little different, some of the effects going on cut out, I could tell that they were using some backing tracks that had quit working, and while they kept playing, you could tell the band was distracted.

The next song, the guitarist came out to start, and then kind of stopped. Awkward. And then the singer came out and apologized, that they were having technical problems, and they couldn’t give the performance that we had paid for, but that they’d finish the set with an acoustic.

And dramatically, things were far more amazing for the second half of the show. Rather than a huge production, suddenly it was one guy on a guitar and two guys singing. You could hear the emotion in their voices far better. It was much more moving, more authentic. It was real.

Yet the singer, after each song, kept apologizing. He kept talking about how sorry they were, and that people backstage were doing they best they could to get things fixed.

As a musician, I get it. You work hard to design a great performance, and it’s disappointing to not be able to share all of that hard work.

But the simple expression of the songs, with basic instrumentation and raw vocals, was far better, and nothing to apologize for. I left with a far higher appreciation for the band and their talent, but more importantly, the messages of the songs.

How often do we do this in our own lives? We work hard on the outer performance, how things appear, and prop that up with a lot of stuff in the background that can fall apart at any time.

What if we simply lived out an expression – with both the good and the bad stuff visible to those around us – and let our faith, our love, and our hope pour out by that expression of the life within? How much more does the expression of Christ’s life, through us individually and collectively, speak grace and mercy to those around us, rather than our religious performance?

I’m not just talking about music and worship services, either. We perform in our daily lives… that’s the kind of thing that “religion” encourages. Rather than being real, we choose to be someone that others expect us to be, instead of living out the life that Christ freely provides.

Ironically enough, one of the songs in the acoustic set was a cover of “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. “Follow your heart, Lord, and nothing else… be a simple kind of man.” Amen, Ronnie, well said.