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Petra Means Rock

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Last night Aileen and I left our children in the care of my in-laws and we travelled across Toronto, braving rush-hour traffic through the heart of the city, to see Petra play their final Toronto show. They have played Toronto five times and I saw them four of those times. In fact, I was the one who promoted their last show some seven years ago. As you may know, Petra is currently in the midst of their Farewell Tour, so this could well be the last time we see them play.

The show kicked off with a local band called Black Talon. They were primarily loud. The style of music seemed a little out-of-place for a crowd that was predominantly thirty and older. It’s not that the band was bad, but just that they did not seem to fit all that well. It was an odd choice.

After Black Talon played a short set, Bread of Stone, a band from Iowa took the stage and played three or four songs. The band was quite talented and the lead vocalist was especially good. Apart from an odd story about visions and broken pottery, it was a good set.

The final opening band was Farewell June from Springfield, Missouri. They got off to a slow start but once the lead vocalist picked up his fiddle the band took off. They are an amazingly talented band whom I suspect I would enjoy far more live than on CD. I absolutely love the combination of fiddle with rock and roll, so I could be a little biased.

And then, after a short break, Petra hit the stage. Now different people have different ideas of what the ideal Petra lineup is. I have always been partial to the John Schlitt, Louie Weaver, Bob Hartman, Ronnie Cates, John Lawry combination from the “Beyond Belief” days. Two of those five were present last night in the persons of Schlitt and Hartman. They are a little older than the first time I saw them, and perhaps a pound or two heavier, but they can still play! Bob can shred that guitar just as well as ever he could and John’s vocals don’t seem to have faded a bit through the years. The two young guys backing them were also exceptionally good.

But, of course, the focus of Petra’s ministry has always been the message behind the music. The focal-point of the show was two medleys, one of the favorite faster songs, and another with the ballads. And so, for one last time, we got to sing out “I am on the rock” and “It must feel just like, just like Judas’ kiss!” And then we got to sing, “No doubt it will all work out, with God it will all work together for good,” and “It’s not too late for Annie, she could be next to you…” And of course they played the full length versions of many of their classics, including “Dance,” “Beyond Belief,” “Creed,” and many others. While they played a few songs from “Jekyll & Hyde,” the primary focus was on the classics. I was particularly glad to see that they sang “He Came, He Saw, He Conquered,” one of my all-time favorites, and one of the most biblical songs Bob Hartman ever wrote.

He came alone into the battle
He knew nobody else could face His foe
He left His throne, He left His glory
He knew nobody else could ever go
He called the bluff, He took the challenge
He came into this world to seek and save
No one could know, no one could fathom
The way to win was only through the grave
They laid Him in His tomb
They thought they’d sealed His doom
But He rose
He rose!

He came, He saw, He conquered death and hell
He came, He saw, He is alive and well
He was, He is, and only He forgives
He died, He rose, He lives
He came, He saw, He conquered!

The concert concluded with a great little talk by Bob where he discussed the plan of salvation. As always, it was biblically-based and hard-hitting. He even went so far as to say, “salvation is by grace through faith.” I don’t know of too many bands who would lay it out quite so clearly. The final song was “Show Your Power.” As Petra has always done, they ended in a time of worship, not going out with drum solos and flashing lights, but in a time of quiet worship. The lights and song faded and the band was gone, leaving the emphasis on God.

Your Gospel, oh, Lord is the hope for our nation
You are the Lord
It’s the power of God for our salvation
You are the Lord

Show Your power
Oh, Lord, our God
Show Your power
Oh, Lord, our God
Oh, Lord, our God

All-in-all it was a great evening and while I enjoyed the concert a great deal, it was with some sadness that I saw them walk off the stage for the final time. Petra played a pivotal role in my life and I will always feel a little bit indebted to them. I am grateful for their ministry and look forward to seeing what God does in and through them in the years to come.

Now I have just noticed that they are playing their final show near Atlanta on December 30. There is a good chance that I will be in Atlanta at the time, so perhaps I’ll get one more opportunity to see them.

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