June 12, 2004: At Oakhill Family Campground in Angola, IN
Reviewed by: Josh Renaud
To see some concert pictures, click here.
When I heard that the original four members of Petra were going to reunite and perform in concert, it sounded too good to be true. When I heard that the present-day Petra lineup would be performing the same night on the same stage, I knew I had to be there.
My wife and I traveled over 400 miles from St. Louis, MO to Angola, IN to attend. The trip wasn't without pitfalls: we found a nail in one of our tires during a stop for gas in Upland. We drove another hour or so to Ft. Wayne (birthplace of Petra) and after stopping at several places, found a Sears that could plug our tire.
At last, seven hours after we had departed, we arrived at Oakhill Family Campground. But we were late, and had trouble finding a good parking spot. I tried to park in the grass and nearly got stuck in the mud. Thankfully we got the car out and found a drier spot. We got out and, bearing a blanket, trudged toward the sound of the music.
We discovered, to our chagrin, that the concert was not being held outdoors, but in an auditorium. The place was packed, but we were pointed to two open chairs where we sat and listened to the opening band, Migraine. Their set was nice, but we and the rest of the crowd were there for just one reason: PETRA.
As soon as Migraine finished, we secured spots standing in front of the stage and watched as first Paul Simmons, then Greg Bailey, then Bob Hartman and John Schlitt came out and got ready to play.
Petra takes the stage
They opened with "Creed," which rocked as performed by Bob ("Finger-pluckin' good," let's call it). The band then played two old favorites from "More Power To Ya": "Judas' Kiss" and "Rose-Colored Stained Glass Windows." I've heard both of these songs performed several times by other Petra guitarists in recent years, but there's just something about Bob's fingers that makes these songs soar.
John took a minute and looked like he was going to talk, but he had second thoughts and tried to give the mike to Bob, who didn't want it. But the crowd began chanting and calling for him, and Bob obliged. He made a few introductory remarks and then made a great transition into the next song by telling the crowd they were in the "Right Place" that night.
Then the drums pounded, the bass throbbed, the guitar growled as John belted out that classic rocker from 1995. After that, the band played a song from their newest album, "Jekyll & Hyde" called "It's All About Who You Know." This is one of my favorite songs on the album, and it sounded amazing live.
After this, Bob took the microphone again as John and the others left the stage. He talked about about the early days and his excitement to be back. He asked specifically for certain individuals and groups that he had heard would be there that night, and even greeted a few individuals he saw in the crowd by name. Then he introduced two of his fellow Petra co-founders: Greg Hough, guitarist; and John DeGroff, bassist. Bob explained that drummer Bill Glover was unable to come, which was disappointing. But Paul filled in ably on drums.
Greg looked clean-cut, with glasses, dark hair, and short salt-n-pepper whiskers. John was a more interesting character with extremely long brown hair and thick glasses, wearing a polka-dotted shirt and flip-flop sandals. Bob called one of them (John, I think) "Doc," and announced to the crowd that "the Doctor is in, and he's here to give you an adjustment!" Then the "originals" launched into their set with "Walkin' in the Light."
I knew that Bob and the other present-day Petra guys had flown in from Europe that same day, so he had little time to practice with the other "originals." But it was as if they'd never split up. Bob was singing and playing full-force. He and Greg were always making eye contact and watching each other closely. Occasionally they would come together to play the long, extended solos that are signatures of the songs from Petra's first two albums. John was in the zone as well, but probably in his own zany world.
When they played "I'm Not Ashamed," Greg got to take the lead vocals. His grandkids were right up front next to my wife and I, and they were extremely excited. He also got to play a great guitar solo.
But the best was yet to come. Bob, Greg, and John put down their instruments and re-armed with a banjo, mandolin, and acoustic guitar respectively. A tremor of excitement rippled through the crowd. The biggest Petra fans recognized what was in store: "Lucas McGraw," the most-requested but never-played-in-concert song in Petra's history. There were no pig sound effects, but it was still funny to hear them play and sing about ol' Lucas, a redneck-type character who gets saved and his friends who notice his changed behavior. I was up front, so I could hear the music very well, but John Schlitt had to run out to adjust Bob's banjo microphone because Bob was moving so much as he played.
I never thought I'd hear this song live, and it was worth the trip just to hear it.
The "originals" then switched back to electric guitars and played "Storm Comin'." By this time it was obvious that Bob was having the time of his life. The enthusiasm and excitement exploded out of him. He was singing and playing with intensity. For one song he used a metal guitar slide over his finger, and then whipped it across the stage when he was finished. Even John Schlitt seemed infected with Bob's excitement, a wide smile stretching across his face as he watched from the wings.
"Backslidin' Blues" was always a favorite at early Petra concerts, and it was the same this night. Even many of the younger fans who didn't know any of the songs the "originals" were playing were grooving to this one as each of the originals had a chance to show off their individual talents.
Finally, they closed out their amazing set with a song I'd never heard before called "Rockin' On With Jesus." It was a staple of Petra's early concerts, but didn't make it onto either of the first two albums. It was a great song.
Then it was over. The crowd cheered and applauded the "originals" for playing an amazing set. Greg took the mike for a moment to recognize his family, and then Bob made another great transition saying "As Greg and John leave the stage, I'd like to ask Greg and John to come back on the stage." He was referring, of course, to John Schlitt and Greg Bailey of present-day Petra.
Back to the future
Present-day Petra kicked off with a medley of three songs from 1984-1991: "Sight Unseen," "It Is Finished," and "This Means War!" The first one was a particular surprise, and I think it's the first time I've heard it in concert.
They followed that with "The Noise We Make," which is the only song they played from their previous album, "Revival." John divided the crowd up into two halves singing "You are holy" and "You are worthy." It was a competition, and Greg was the judge. Greg enthusiastically endorsed the right side of the auditorium, which I was part of. He was quite animated during the whole thing.
Petra continued with a slew of fan-favorites, including "Beyond Belief" with a great guitar solo from Bob, "Lord I Lift Your Name on High," "He Came, He Saw, He Conquered," and "Jekyll & Hyde."
I was surprised Petra only played two songs from "Jekyll & Hyde," which has been so well-received by fans (though not a huge seller). But I suppose they felt this concert would draw a lot of fans who remember old songs so they made the set list skew a little older.
After such an amazing warm-up from the "originals," the crowd was really into the concert by now. Young and old alike were singing and dancing and jumping. And the band was equally into it, though they didn't move around as much as during the "originals" set. Bob and Greg jammed together several times, and Paul was amazing on the drums. John's vocals were great, and I didn't notice any major slips in the song lyrics, either, which impressed me.
At this point, the music stopped and Bob began to talk about something quite serious: "life-controlling problems" (that is, addictions). Bob said that the reason Bill Glover hadn't been part of the concert had something to do with problems he has battled for a long time. Bob used that as an opportunity to explain the danger of even flirting with things that can lead to addiction.
To illustrate his point, Bob told a story about a cat that came up to him, rubbing his leg and purring. Bob began to scratch the cat softly on the head, and the cat seemed to enjoy it. He was purring and moving in a way that indicated pleasure. Bob kept scratching and thinking "Everything is right in the world!" Eventually the cat rolled onto its back, exposing its belly. To Bob, it seemed like an invitation and he began to scratch the cat's tummy. At first the cat enjoyed it, but then he pounced and bit Bob's hand. His claws gripped Bob's arm, and Bob couldn't shake the cat off.
Addiction is like that, Bob said. We play with it and think we are in control, but we quickly reach a point where the addiction controls US and we can't shake it off.
The answer is to invite God to show his power in our lives, but also to have accountability, people who will help us when we fall and encourage us.
It was a great talk, and Bob was extremely animated throughout it, using hand motions, rubbing against a microphone stand like a cat, and making jokes. Bob called for people who had been battling such problems to come forward so they could receive help and accountability. He also led the crowd in prayer.
Petra ended the concert with the song "Show Your Power" from "Petra Praise II." It was a unique way to end a Petra concert, and totally appropriate for the talk Bob had given. Greg Hough re-joined the band on stage and played for the song.
All in all, this was an amazing concert that I will never forget. It was only the second time I'd ever seen Bob in concert, but he looked like he was on top of the world. It's also worth noting again that the present-day band had come from literally across the world in Europe to play that evening. They all needed to sleep and rest, but they played amazingly anyway. Bob and Paul were the most impressive, since they performed in both Petra sets.
- Judas' Kiss
- Rose-Colored Stained Glass Windows
- Right Place
- All About Who You Know
- Walkin' in the Light
- Get Back to the Bible
- I'm Not Ashamed
- Lucas McGraw
- Storm Comin'
- Backslidin' Blues
- Rockin' On With Jesus
- Sight Unseen/It Is Finished/This Means War!
- The Noise We Make
- Beyond Belief
- Lord, I Lift Your Name On High
- He Came, He Saw, He Conquered
- Jekyll & Hyde
- Show Your Power