Petra: Michael Jones's Concert Review
Back to the Rock Tour
April 29th, 2012
Bartlesville Community Center
Nine days ago I got the regular weekly email from our local Christian radio station, KXOJ. I always glance over it, although it's not that often that it contains something that really gets me excited. This time made up for ALL of those "not that excited" times... The "Classic Petra" lineup of Petra was going to be playing a concert about an hour away from Tulsa! I was so excited I could hardly wait to tell my wife! She and I actually met because of our mutual Petra fandom, and although she is way more of a John Schlitt fan than a Greg Volz fan, she was excited too. We had watched the concert special on TBN, and I was so stoked!
Let me back up a minute. The first song of Petra's that caught my fancy, back when I was a kid, was "The Coloring Song." The first cassette I got of Petra's was a copy of Not of this World that I discovered at Wal-Mart... I scored a copy of Beat the System, which actually was out already when I got NOTW, at Wal-Mart a few months later. But when I moved back to Louisiana from East Texas, the Beat the System Tour had already come and gone, and I had missed it. Not long after that I learned that Greg X. Volz had left the band, and some other guy was going to be lead singer now. (Little did I know that he was going to spend more years as vocalist for Petra than Volz had!) So, although I've been to almost a dozen Petra concerts since then, the Petra I had "fallen in love" with was a Petra I was never destined to get to hear.
So, back to nine days ago. The first thing I did when I found out about the concert was (hel-LOOOO!) snag some tickets as fast as I could! The second thing I did was hop on Petra's Web site and order a copy of the Classic Petra DVD. I wanted to give my kids a chance to see this Petra performing and be familiar with the songs they were likely to play in concert. (We already had the studio album, of course.) As a result, my 4-year-old daughter seems to have become a bit infatuated with Mark Kelly; whenever she sees him the word "cute" seems to enter the conversation. (Which isn't a big surprise... I think my wife may have had a teenage crush on Mark back in the day, too!) I watched the concert once by myself and then once with the family, and loved it both times. I loved that this Petra felt a call of God to reach again the teenagers they had reached back in the 1970s and 1980s, the ones who had come to Jesus in a pure way but had been beaten down by life and maybe strayed a little bit. How many bands do you know of who have a burden to reach out to the same people they ministered to as kids 25 years before? I thought that was fabulous and unique. And as I listened to the songs in their 2011 versions, they seem to me to have a quality that they didn't even have back when they were brand new, a depth that is only available to an artist when he's lived some life. They were saying, "Those things we told you from the Word of God back in 1982? Turns out they are still true now! Isn't that great? Here they are! These things God has provided for you in His Word are amazing!"
The show itself was definitely not a disappointment. Actually, I was expecting to hear exactly the same songs that are on the studio album and the live DVD, and the first bunch of them were, but then I heard a familiar keyboard intro, and said to the guy sitting next to me, "Wow, THIS one isn't on the CD!" I was amazed that they played a song that I doubt very many people have even heard of: "All Over Me" from the More Power To Ya album! Then they played another More Power To Ya track that's not on the Classic Petra album: "Judas Kiss"! That song had one of the highlights of the night for me: John Lawry started trading licks on his keytar (you know, those keyboards in the 80s that were hand-held like guitars?) with Bob on guitar! Then Lawry actually walked out on stage and he and Bob went at it, playing each other's riffs and just generally being awesome. In fact, when they were done I said to my 12-year-old son, "I hope you know you have just witnessed awesomeness." He just shook his head yes. :) The musicianship of this Petra, by the way, is IMPECCABLE. If you just want to hear some well-played rock and roll, you'll definitely get that at a Classic Petra concert. The years have certainly not had any negative effect on their playing or singing skills!
After that they played another favorite of mine which isn't on the Classic Petra CD: "It Is Finished" from Beat the System. One song I was surprised they did not play is the awesome, almost Muse-like new Bob Hartman song "Too Big To Fail." I was hoping to hear it live, but to be honest I was having such a great time the whole night that I couldn't bring myself to feel disappointed. The whole show was terrific!
One thing that made it special was getting a chance to experience it with my kids. They had so much fun hearing the songs they knew, and they were excited (and completely intimidated!) to meet the band afterward. All five of the band members signed our DVD, and my son had actually brought his Bible to get them to write their favorite Bible verses inside the front cover, which I thought was a great idea! The band members are so sweet and friendly; it's definitely worth it to stay after to get to shake some hands if you're so inclined. At this point I've gotten to meet band members from several iterations of Petra, and every time, they've been kind and loving people who seem to genuinely care about the people who come to hear them perform.
Listen, go hear Classic Petra if you have a chance. Even if you missed them in the 80s... in fact, maybe even MORE if you missed them in the 80s. These guys do this Christian rock thing RIGHT. There's never a question about their musicianship, there's never a question about their message, and there's never a question of their heart.
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