A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece for BernardGoldberg.com in which I described a Blue October concert my wife and I attended last summer, and how it left a lasting impression on us. I referred to lead singer Justin Furstenfeld’s connection with his audience as a “cult of gratitude” for how he misses few opportunities to share with his fans just how grateful he is for them, his family, and his second chance at life.
It was an incredibly uplifting experience, hosted by a man who (while having produced ten top-40 singles over the years) struggled for much of his life with depression, drug addiction, and other self-destructive tendencies before finally turning things around about six years ago. Though Furstenfeld didn’t talk a lot about God that night, his faith was clear in how he expressed his passion for living and the glory of redemption.
I remember thinking, as we were driving home, that he would be a very interesting person to one day have a conversation with. I had no idea at the time that I would be handed such an opportunity less than a year later.
When I saw online that Furstenfeld would be passing through Colorado on his Open Book Tour (a one-man acoustic and storytelling performance), I picked up a couple of VIP tickets which promised a meet and greet, an autographed poster, and a photograph. I hoped I’d get a chance to ask a question or two of the Texas-based singer without being hurriedly pushed through a fan line. As it turned out, there was nothing rushed or programmed about it.
Furstenfeld welcomed the VIP folks (there were probably two-dozen of us) inside the concert venue a couple hours before showtime, and treated us to an exclusive acoustic performance of his music and a personable Q&A session in which no question was off limits. It was like having a friendly, laid-back conversation with a group of friends.
I told Furstenfeld how soulful we found his concert from last year to be, and when my wife brought up religion, he explained that his philosophy when it comes to his faith isn’t to necessarily tell people about it, but rather show them. It was a great description of how he presents himself, and it mirrored my views on the topic. I’ve long believed that pushing religion on others isn’t a particularly effective way of spreading the word of God. Serving as a testament to what faith can bring to an individual’s life, however, is.
Furstenfeld answered questions until there weren’t any left. He then signed posters and merchandise, and posed for pictures (some of them pretty silly) with each fan. Once the doors opened, and the other concert-goers were let in, it was more of the same — just in front of a much larger (sold-out) crowd. He performed amazing renditions of his music, told fascinating and remarkably candid stories about his achievements and failures, and took audience questions for a full two and a half hours. Again, nothing was off limits, including his retelling of the moment (at the end of a long rehabilitation stay) when he finally heard from God.
Rather than me relaying the story, here he is explaining it himself at a different show:
Fans have a genuine connection with this man, and he has a genuine connection with them. This was evident through the personal stories they shared with him, which he took time to listen to. I can’t imagine that anyone left that night feeling as though the price they’d paid for admission was anything less than a bargain.
Furstenfeld is the real deal — a true testament to the power of faith and personal transformation. If you ever get a chance to see him or Blue October perform, take it. You won’t be sorry. And by the end of the night, you might even find yourself looking at life a bit differently.