|» Petra 2005 11 27||
Not many bands have been working for 33 years, sold over seven million records and been so influential to a whole genre - without really being known about among ordinary music loving people. Petra has been mainly a matter for Christians. Of course it has its natural explanation in their unmasked message. But at the same time they are quite humble about their faith and not at all trying to push it into people. If you like really good rock 'n' roll music and not are extremely phobic about everything that has to do with Christianity, there is still time to discover Petra's music - on record! Because this is the end as we know it live. I was there to witness the last Petra-show ever in Sweden. The concert was (of course) sold out, which means about 1200 people (plus about a hundred workers and guests).
I was kind of worried, since the press conference got cancelled. The band was so tired after the trip from Norway that they went straight to the hotel to sleep. The arrangers should pick them up fifteen minutes before the show. But my worries were groundless. Petra entered the stage on time and showed no sign of sleepiness. As on the last tour they started up with All About Who You Know. I still think that is a bit too mid-tempo to really qualify as an opening song. But the temperature rose immediately when John Schlitt announced his will to Dance.
It is remarkable how a band that usually have been playing quite soft rock of the adult oriented kind on record, suddenly takes a whole new shape on stage. I must give credit to that to the otherwise more anonymous 'new' members of the rhythm section, drummer Paul Simmons and bass player Greg Bailey. They really make it sound heavy. Even a humble song like Amazing Grace (no, not the traditional hymn) gets a whole new touch. Not to talk about Right Place with double-pedal bass drum! But with all the respect for the 'new' guys, without founder member and guitarist Bob "Fastfingers" Hartman's heavy riffing and sensitive solos there would be no Petra! Then we of course have the possibly best rock voice in the wide world - John Schlitt. A totally amazing blend of sensibility, rawness, clearness, range and deep.
"Also known as Fastfingers well I called him that once " (John Schlitt introduces Bob)
Generally I'm very sceptic against medleys, they usually just tease you with songs you want to hear in their whole. But there are a few bands that can get away with it. Bands with 33 years of pure hit music - bands like Petra. You could almost just close your eyes and point at a record and song and be sure you want to hear it played live. So either way it is inevitable that you will be able to easily count twenty songs that you missed in the set. Seeing it that way I must be pleased to get to hear at least a passage from the 80s classic This Means War.
When it is time for Jekyll & Hyde, titeltrack on the last record (2003), there is no reason to make it heavier really. Petra has never been harder musically than now. And they seem to enjoy it! The end is a bit outstretched. At the first encore Bob Hartman proclaims the band's Christian mission and holds a little prayer for the audience, followed by a couple of more hymnal songs from the Petra Praise II album.
"It's not a religion - it's a relationship!" (Bob Hartman)
Then I almost lose count on how many times the band are being called back on stage. John Schlitt holds a sing-along moment with the old Kiss hit God Gave Rock 'n' Roll To You. As finish we get a couple of more hard-rocking songs from Jekyll & Hyde. To sum up - here it was! After the concert last year at Gullbrannafestivalen I remember writing that I believed that the band could do even better. I was right. This was a blessed evening! The band was as vital as ever and I can only regret that they've decided to quit at the top.
"They sure know how to party up there. So we better practice while down here!" (Bob Hartman)
9 chalices of 10