Dec. 3, 2004: In Aizawl, India
Review by: Robert Chongthu
Petra came to Aizawl, which is the capital of state of Mizoram in northeast India. About a week ago, they performed in Shillong, which is the capital of another northeast Indian state, Meghalaya. This is the first time they came to this part of India and they were more than welcome because these states have a predominantly Christian population.
In Aizawl, the show was held in aid of an organisation called TNT, which stands for Thutak Nunpuitute, (literally, 'Those Who Live By The Truth'), which runs orphanages, rehab centres and care centres for mentally afflicted persons. Petra visited the facility a day before the show and they were quite impressed by the place. The TNT band, made up of the 'clients' there, performed "Just Reach Out" for them. I was told that Petra jammed for some time at that place, too.
A charity dinner was also organised the night before the concert where people got to meet the band and take photographs with them. I was there with my wife and it was pretty cool. We got a bunch of photos with the band and watched a short program organised in their honour, showcasing a few traditional dances of the local culture and performances by local artists.
The concert begins
The main concert was held in an outdoor football field where a makeshift stage was constructed and some seats were arranged at the side of the field, leaving the main area in front of the stage bare. As it turned out, our 500 rupee tickets were meant for those seats on the side, while the people with the 300 rupee seats got to stand right in front of the stage where the view was much better. We eventually ditched our seats before the show began and went right up to the front before the crowd got too heavy. This was a good move, as we later realized.
The crowd was very excited with everyone cheering loudly right from the time the opening acts started to perform. A local group of Christian artists called the Harvest Ministry performed several songs including Petra's "Without Him We Can Do Nothing." They were pretty good. I'm sure Petra would have appreciated their performance if they heard them. In between the singing, some guy whom I assumed was a member of the Harvest Ministry, had a moment of prayer. The crowd eventually built up to about 20,000, leaving many people stranded on the street outside.
After the opening acts finished, Petra's guest artist Abner came on stage and sang some songs solo, playing an acoustic guitar. He then called on stage two orphan girls from the TNT center, whom he accompanied on the guitar while they sang two songs, "Go Light Your Candle" and "Four Days Late." These girls could really sing and it was definitely one of the highlights of the show, in my opinion.
Petra takes the stage
At about 6 pm, Petra came onstage and rocked our socks off! The sound was excellent and the band seemed to be genuinely having a blast. John remarked that nobody would believe them when they told them Petra played a show on a mountainside. Which is pretty much true because Aizawl is perched on top of a bunch of very, very steep mountains. I personally wonder if Petra have ever done a show in a place like Aizawl before.
The crowd went crazy. Everyone was yelling and I was glad that we moved to the front of the stage early; it would have been impossible once the show started. I was trying to get pictures of the band so I split my time between yelling, jumping, and taking pictures. It was great fun. Everyone was jumping and we had ourselves a thorough workout by the time the show was over. I bet we burnt a few hundred calories that night. We'd definitely lose a lot of weight if Petra came over more often.
I was impressed with the sound quality. Hats off to Common Colours, the Bangslore-based production company, for making that possible. My brother had seen the earlier show at Shillong and he said the bass didn't come through clear enough in that show. No such problems in Aizawl, however. Greg's bass was definitely audible. The drums were also very clear and Paul's drumming was very faithfully projected; especially the bass drum. Paul did a short solo during the show which blew everyone away. I really liked his drumming because it had a no-holds-barred rock feel to it. His kit wasn't particularly big but he sure rocked! I hope he stays in the band a long time.
Bob gave a short testimony and led the crowd in prayer. He spoke about how he became a Christian, by praying a simple prayer asking God to come into his life. He said that there was no bolt of lightning, but something happened inside and changed him. Bob asked how many prayed that prayer for the first time that night and many people raised their hands.
Bob's guitar tone was excellent. I believe he was using his signature Gibson guitar (I may be wrong) and his tone was really cool. Especially on songs like "Jekyll & Hyde," "I Waited For The Lord" and "It Is Finished." Bob played some really interesting arrangements for songs like "Beyond Belief" and "Creed" and the keyboards were not missed at all. And those amazing riffs! I particularly liked "Jekyll & Hyde." Awesome riff! He seemed to be having a good time playing and I think Greg's bass playing was really slick too. Greg was hopping a lot and that really got the crowd moving. I got my feet stomped a couple of times by the guy next to me but I probably stomped him too so there were no hard feelings.
John spoke a couple of introductory lines before each song. He was definitely having fun. At one time, Bob was improvising a short solo when John went up and started hitting on the crash cymbals. He was soon joined by Greg on the other side. Paul's drum solo was amazing. That guy is one excellent drummer. Very fast right foot and amazing use of the double bass pedal. Like I said earlier, I hope this guy stays in the band.
About an hour into the show, the band abruptly said goodnight but there was definitely going to be an encore. The crowd chanted for more and sure enough, John came back on stage and the band started playing for about another thirty minutes. The show lasted about 90 minutes, leaving everyone wishing for more.
Petra performed quite a good mixture of their old and new songs. There were some songs I hadn't heard at all, which I later found out were from their new album "Jekyll & Hyde." I was more familiar with the older songs since I had grown out of touch with the band for a while (The last album I bought was "Wake-up Call").
The crowd could join in singing songs like "Beyond Belief," "Creed" and worship songs like "Lord I Lift Your Name On High" and we had the privilege of hearing the new songs live before we even heard the studio versions.
Interestingly, I discovered that Bob Hartman had recently returned from "touring retirement" and they had dropped the keyboards in the present line-up. I think this made their sound very fresh and contemporary. And it works very well for live performances, in my opinion. I really liked the un-cluttered sound. It was basic, no-frills rock. I also noticed their set list didn't include any of their slow songs which I found somehow appropriate. One thing I have always liked about Petra is that they rock!