One of my Christmas presents was the DVD of Petra's Farewell tour. I thought I would take a moment to reminisce a bit. Only a year and a day late for Petra Appreciation Day...
My history with the band Petra stretches back all the way to about 1985. I had heard the song "Blinded Eyes" at a church youth group, and I decided I needed to hear more of them. It turns out that my dad's best friend from high school (the same one who produced To End All Wars) knew the band (specifically Bob Hartman, if I remember right). He gave me a copy of Not of This World, which is still my favorite Petra album. They were on the Beat the System tour at the time, and Mr. Hafer was also kind enough to get us tickets to the concert, as well as backstage passes.
The concert was great. Opening for them were two unknowns (unknown to me anyway). One was a young lady with an amazing voice; it was Kathy Troccoli. The other opening act was a guy and his band--a bunch of rowdies jumping around on stage in basketball jerseys and a Gumby head on. But what made an impact on me that night was when the band left, and under a single spotlight he played this new song from a couple of yellow legal sheet pages. The song was "Rocketown," and the artist, of course, was Michael W. Smith.
After Petra was done, we were able to go backstage and meet the band. I don't remember much about it, except that the "X" in Greg X. Volz's name stands for nothing (he has no middle name), but it was great.
Shortly after that concert, word came out that Petra was breaking up, and their live album, Captured in Time and Space came out. By that time, I had picked up Beat the System, and over the course of time, I was able to go back and pick up all the old albums, including the original self-titled album and Come and Join Us. (I suffer from a completist compulsion, which I suppose goes along with my perfectionist tendencies).
Petra added John Schlitt as the new lead singer, and my mom and sister took me to see them on the Back to the Street tour. We all remember the same thing--it was loud! The Celebrity Theater in Phoenix is a great venue for a lot of different types of events, including concerts, but not rock concerts. Ironically, DeGarmo & Key, who opened for them, was actually louder than Petra, though that may have been a combination of them not having adjusted the two piles of 6 speakers until after them, as well as the earplugs they handed out at the break.
In any case, I followed Petra at a slight distance from that point forward, still collecting albums up through Unseen Power. Out of the John Schlitt albums I have, I think the best is Beyond Belief. In fact, I think that may actually be their best album period--polished pop rock produced by the Elefante brothers.
But no matter the new albums that came out, the Volz era remained my favorite. Songs like "Run for the Prize" and "Second Wind" came to mind as I participated in high school sports. Just something about that voice, I guess...
In the meantime, I had gotten older, married, and was buying music that my wife and I both liked, I finally decided that the new direction wasn't as interesting to me, so I didn't really follow them anymore, except if they had a song that hit Christian radio (and if you're familiar with the band, you'll know how seldom that is).
The DVD is a real joy to watch. There were some songs I wasn't familiar with, but which were good nonetheless. Former lead singer Greg X. Volz and former keyboardist John Lowry come up on stage for a few songs, as well as being included in interviews.
Petra is one of those bands that you think "they'll go on forever," and it's hard to believe that it's finally over. Although I just read on the website that Bob Hartman & John Schlitt are teaming up for a new worship record, so who knows...
(A belated) Congrats to the guys on 30+ years of ministry and music.