Sunday, August 14, 2011


     Classic Petra is Bob Hartman (guitar and vocals), Greg X Volz (lead vocals), John Lawry (keyboards and vocals), Louie Weaver (drums), and Mark Kelly (bass and vocals).  Their 2011 BACK TO THE ROCK LIVE is comprised of two dvds.  The first is a live concert that was taped at Trinity City Music Hall in Tennessee on November 20, 2010.  The track listing is the same as is found on their 2010 BACK TO THE ROCK cd.  The concert fittingly begins with Psalm 78:35 playing over the speakers: "Then they remembered that God was their Rock, and the most High God their Redeemer."  This concert marked the first time in 25 years that this incarnation of the band had played live together and they really seem to be enjoying themselves and playing their instruments and singing with passion.  Greg X. Volz makes good use of the stage, utilizing leg kicks, jumps, and even running up and down ramps.  Volz makes it clear that the band wants to rescue the perishing and the prodigals-those who have tasted of God's goodness but have been tripped up by the enemy.  As always, with Petra, the songs convey meaningful messages. 'Clean' speaks of how believers are justified and sanctified.  'Angel of Light' warns of the schemes of the devil.  'Second Wind' speaks of spiritual renewal.  'Adonai' offers praise to God.  'Grave Robber' talks of Christ's ultimate victory over death and the hope we have resulting from that.  'Godpleaser' warns against seeking the approval of men.  The camera work and lighting are pleasing to the eye.  All in all, this is a mighty fine, professional concert.  I'm rating Disc One a 90%.
     Disc Two is a documentary recounting the formation and early history of this band that has won four Grammy's and 10 Dove Awards.  In the early 1970's Bob Hartman met bassist John DeGroff in Bible school in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and guitarist Greg Hough and drummer Bill Glover (classmates) and formed Petra.  In 1974 they released their debut, self-titled album with Hartman and Hough sharing lead vocal duties.  They brought in a number of guest vocalists on their second album COME AND JOIN US, one of whom was Greg X. Volz, who had been with the 'e' band.  Bob Hartman says: "The Jesus Movement was a genuine Holy Spirit revival."  People were completely turning around.  Petra wanted to evangelize and reach people who didn't go to church.  They were though, criticized for their rock sound.  Radio host Jerry Bryant recalls getting phone calls telling him he was going to hell for playing the devil's music.  In the early 1980's WASHES WHITER THAN was released.  It was not a big seller and had distribution problems.  Band members were leaving and Hartman considered hanging it up.  However, he met Mark Kelly and John Slick at a Bible study and hired them to join him and Volz.  Hartman recalls Christian record labels would say they would put Petra's records out, but not to expect much!  Petra's fourth album was NEVER SAY DIE and had on it 'The Coloring Song', originally by 'e' band.  It went to the top of Christian radio.  Petra hired Louie Weaver, a drummer who had been with Randy Matthews and Fireworks.  In 1982 Petra did 162 shows.  MORE POWER TO YA was praised by Billboard.
     Petra encountered charges of hiding secret evil messages in their music via backwards masking.  On their song 'Judas Kiss' they hid the following message in response: "What are you looking for the devil for when you ought to be looking for the Lord?"  Pastors prayed against Petra and people picketed their shows even though they gave an invitation at the end of their shows.  In 1983 they played 152 shows.
     For NOT OF THIS WORLD Petra used lights, stage effects, and costumes.  John Lawry from the Joe English band joined Petra on keyboards.  Their 1985 album BEAT THE SYSTEM used keyboards, electronic drums, computerized sound effects and fairlight synthesizer.  Petra played to 500 000 on the BEAT THE SYSTEM tour. 
     Hartman and Volz disagreed on Petra's future.  The tour had been expensive and the band was hurting financially.  In 1985 Volz left Petra to pursue a solo career.  John Schlitt was the first and last to audition for the vocalist position.  In 2005 Petra retired with a Farewell Tour.
     This fine documentary is forty-five minutes. It has some emotional moments. Louie Weaver is particularly grateful to be in Petra. John Lawry recounts how he was taken in as an orphan by missionaries when he was four and fighting malnutrition.  I'm rating this second disc a 87%.
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