I have a confession to make: I wasn’t a very good Christian for a great share of my life. (Mom, it’s not mandatory that you print this and mail it to me. I’ve already confessed to this one!) And by not a very good one, I mean someone who had such deep doubts about God that I tried to avoid exposure to anything even vaguely Christian so as to avoid puncturing my skepticism. As a result of that boneheaded outlook I missed out on lots of great things, including Petra.
I was the smart guy who wouldn’t listen to Christian rock on a bet. No, not as long as (name the commercial band) was playing would the likes of Petra or Stryper grace my radio. I mocked the genre, mocked the people who listened, and mocked the message. Call me Saul.
After 40 years of performing, Petra finally got me to a concert last weekend. I’m sad to report that my backside is very sore from kicking myself for this mistake. I have to add Petra to the list of things that may have changed my life for the better if I’d been open enough to listen to them years ago.
Incredible vocals, guitar and bass with the best of them, and great drumming are what makes this band a keeper. I saw them at the Cedar Valley Church in Bloomington, MN. Just a quick walk from the Mall of America, it’s a small venue. The band, however, has a big sound. A sound that used to fill the largest venues on a regular basis.
I have to admit that I didn’t know any Petra songs by heart when I walked in the door. I will be remedying that in the future. The songs I heard Saturday left a mark on my soul. They are some of the songs that form the portfolio for most modern worship bands in contemporary churches. These guys can write and perform.
What sets their music aside from many others is the style of the vocals. Think Journey with Christ. This music speaks strongly to people my age because we were weaned on guitars, hair, and spandex. The soaring vocals (I think I stole that from a late night infomercial) are exactly what I want to listen to when I tune in to the radio. Petra brings not just that sound, but words that tell Biblical stories. Stories of the life of Christ, His Crucifixion, and His resurrection. On the surface most people would wonder how they can make that into a rock anthem that works? The answer is … danged if I know, but it works. You find yourself singing along and rocking out with the band.
Perhaps more importantly, I found myself rocking out with the audience. The audience that I’d mocked and scorned in my youth. I felt a hollow sadness for a part of the night for how I’d treated these people. They were nerds for Christ. But they knew all the words, they bopped with the beat, and they had lived their lives in Christ while I was still lurking around some scuzzy bar in Naples, Italy.
They knew all the words. That thought came back to me over and over Saturday. The audience had embraced this sanctified lifestyle as kids and kept it up until this very moment. Gray and paunchy like me, they had worshiped God during their youth when I was trying very hard to avoid His mercy and love. What a dolt I was back then. Probably still a dolt in many ways, but at least now I’m trying to play a bit of catch-up and savor these things I missed back then. It’s never too late to be a teenager.
I shot quite a bit of video that night – and I’m not going to ruin the band’s reputation with my patented shaky video style. Instead I’m putting a few of their videos below. Thanks, Petra, for a great concert on Saturday. And, to my fellow Christian music fans, my apologies for my negative attitude in the past. I’m honored that you kept the genre growing while I was looking for the truth.
Petra playing Creed (Farm Aid, 1992)