So we came. We saw. We conquered. The Petra concert, that is.
Well, not really. We just went, and saw. Dennis, Ryan (who should have photos and an accompanying blog entry up by tomorrow morning) and myself.
EDIT: And so did Lisa!
Was it the best concert I’ve ever been to? Far and away, YES. It’s not even close.
Was it the best concert I’ll ever see? They’d have to try hard to beat
this. Top to bottom, opener to closer, this was a tremendous
performance. Even the opening acts, none of whom I’d heard before, were
top-notch. They’ll be Christian music heavyweights if they keep at it.
On to the concert thoughts:
Took place at Centre St. Church Aaron has a blog entry
(until Ryan’s comes up, anyway) which described and pictured the
facility quite accurately, but being there made it some much more
poignant. Place is HUGE, and feels more like a mall than a church. That
fountain, with the glass and water- I could have stared at that thing
for hours. I think I did, with the lines we had to get through
We arrived about 5:45 (concert scheduled to start at 7), which was
right before the line-up to the auditorium got bad. Great timing. I
stood in line, while Dennis and Ryan hit up the merchandisers. Who
loved people with exact change- I discovered this afterwards. Doors
opened about ten to 7, and the concert started about ten after.
Only Forward, the opening act, came out with a high-energy four song set. Uncompromising pop-punk, and lead singer Dave Martel
was fearless, unafraid to dance about the stage, and have fun with the
band. He also sported an afro which could have held several families of
mice. Vocals were a little low, and I couldn’t always understand what
he was saying- but such is par for the course with alt-rock (and
perhaps Martel’s voice). A great set.
Ryan ended up buying their CD right then. I may follow him up later.
The second band was Bread of Stone, who dialed it back a little to start. Their set was a little less aggressive (perhaps due to having to borrow Petra drummer Paul Simmons, and at least one member of third act Farewell June),
but that was not to their detriment. For their second song, they had
the audience join in on “Blessed Be Your Name”, which was absolutely
dynamite. Most of their songs seemed reverent, and geared toward praise
and worship, which worked very well. A little lighter, a little more
melodic than Only Forward, but still very good.
The third act was six-person outfit Farewell June,
the most polished sound of the three openers, and it showed. A very
radio-friendly sound, and I’d be surprised if they weren’t headlining a
tour of their own in the next few years. Seven or eight songs-
including a little “not quite country, not quite rock” bit (straight
out of Missouri, apparently, where the band hails from) where lead
singer Robert Woods grabbed a violin, and started going nuts on it. The crowd loved it.
Guitarist Nick Woods was a bit of a ham, but dude could play.
Then, the intermission. While Ryan went to buy Only Forward’s disc,
I mentioned to Dennis that I’d pay $25 (the cost of front/centre
section tickets) to see those three acts again. It was about 9ish when the break ended, and the lights came back down.
I felt the anticipation when the lights dimmed, and the bass played
the intro. The crowd was on it’s feet, and a dull roar began to build.
Petra was here.
The lights came up. Bob Hartman,
on guitars to the left. Greg Bailey, on bass on the right of the stage.
Paul Simmons, on drums in the back (and really highly elevated- Dennis
theorized that this was so we could see him). And then, from the left
side, in the back, behind the partition- John Schlitt, grinning ear to ear, already having fun with the crowd.
The set list:
All About Who You Know
Test of Time
The “What’s Your Favourite?” Medley:
Sight Unseen/It Is Finished (opening verse, and chorus)/Think Twice/I
Am On The Rock/Midnight Oil/Minefield/This Means War/It Is Finished
Jekkyl and Hyde
The “Softer Stuff” Medley: Rose
Coloured Stained Glass Windows/Road to Zion/More Power To Ya/(Too Late)
For Annie/No Doubt/Colouring Song/Love
I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N/Paul’s Solo
Beyond Belief/Bob’s Solo
Lord, I Lift Your Name on High
He Came, He Saw, He Conquered
We Need Jesus
Show Your Power
They kicked off the show with “All About Who You Know”, a hard-driving song from Jekkyl and Hyde.
John’s energy throughout the entire show amazed me. Always moving about
the stage, very clearly having a blast. His voice was straining a lot
(that’s in part due to his style, I think), but he could still reach
back and hit the high note when he needed to.I just wish I’d been able to see him on stage before.
John commented on how nice this ‘part of Canada’ was to intro the second song, before saying “It makes me wanna DAAAAAANCE!”
Bob introduced the first medley, talking about how they had such a hard
time making a set lists, and everyone in the crowd would always call
for their favourites (which, of course, brought the same reaction from
ours- Ryan eventually got his, and I’d already gotten mine by that
point). Their method was, if someone heard their favourite in the
medley, they had to raise their hands. John and Greg, of course,
obliged by demonstrating how, exactly, to do this. The problem for us,
of course, was picking one. What a dynamite collection, and the energy
didn’t ebb one bit.
After Jekkyl and Hyde (another brutally energetic song), John started
talking about how he got into Petra, listening to their albums, and
then later discovering that they had softer stuff (he mentioned that he
“must have skipped those ones”, before recalling that he’d probably
have had them on vinyl at that point, and wasn’t able to skip). While
he talked, the band set up. For that medley, they sat in a semi-circle
on stools, as if around a campfire. Paul played a smaller drum, and
Greg played a cello, which sounded very, very good.
The surprise of the night happened after the acoustic medley, which
John and Bob launching into the Sunday school staple “I am a C-. I am a
C-H-. I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N.”, while the rest of the band moved back
to their original spots. Just awesome.
Then, the rest of the band stepped off while Paul went nuts on the
drums. I don’t know how long he went on, and I didn’t really care. This
guy is really, really good. He tossed the sticks a lot during the
concert, and caught them every single time.
After that, Ryan got his wish, and they played “Beyond Belief”. At the
end, John stepped back, letting Bob strum on the guitar for a bit. Bob
wasn’t nearly as flashy as any of his counterparts on the guitar, but
I’ll bet the old man has been showing them a thing or two on this tour.
Worship staple “Lord, I Lift Your Name On High” was the finisher, with
the crowd singing as one. Well, we sang along most of the time. The
difference being, it was more expected here.
The band left the stage to thunderous applause, with the chant of “We
want more!” beginning soon afterwards. The cheers kept on coming
throughout the wait, and only increased when they came back on stage
for the encore.
The hard rocker “He Came, He Saw, He Conquered” got us back on our
feet. After that, Bob took center stage, and began to talk. He talked
about how he’d gone to church as a child, and wasn’t always taught
about “being saved”, or the drastic change that came with accepting
Jesus into your life. He talked about how there needed to be a change,
and that we HAD to be sure of our faith, and had to spread that message
And then, continuing a tradition they’d kept for 33 years, Bob made an altar call, and led us in prayer.
Praise songs “We Need Jesus” and “Show Your Power” finished off the
show, the crowd singing along as John ‘s voice soared through the
auditorium, still belting it out and working the crowd like a frontman
20 years his junior (though his shirt suggested he’d expended some
effort to that point).
After that, we got autographs (after quite the wait in line)- Ryan
wanted to get a photo with the band and all three of us, but the
roadies wanted to keep the line moving, so he had to settle for a side
shot of them signing. We did shake their hands, and wish them well.
Being able to say “Thank you. God bless you.” to Bob Hartman and John
Schlitt (and hearing them respond humbly) made my night. For about the
I could go on and on- in fact, I have already. But to say that this was
an experience that I will never forget would be accurate. To say it was
one I enjoyed immensely would also be accurate. To say that I wish it
wasn’t over for them- again, right on the money. But as John said when
we closed (paraphrasing, since my memory’s getting fuzzy, but I think
this is the general message): Petra is more than the people here on
stage, and the people that have been here before. Petra is a ministry.
When you go out there, play the music, you help change lives, help
spread the word of God, and the good news about Jesus Christ. You
become a part of that. And you can keep on doing that long after we’re
And so we will, John. And so we will.
In the heat of the early morning on a hill they call the Skull
The roaring of the angry mob had settled to a lull
All eyes were cast upon the man whose hands and feet were bound
They saw him cry in anguish when they heard the hammer pound
They saw the bloody woven thorns with which His head was crowned
They watched the bloody cross of wood be dropped into the ground
The soldiers gambled for His clothes, they watched them win and lose
They saw the sign above His head that said “King of the Jews”
(It is finished) And the sky grew black as the night
(It is finished) And the people scattered in fright
The work had been done, redemption had been won
The war was over without a fight
It is finished