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Petra Celebrates 50 Years of Christian Rock at Cornerstone in Madison

by Rich and Laura Lynch

The faithful came from near and far to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Petra at Cornerstone Church in Madison, Tennessee on November 04, 2022. Petra is one of the most influential and popular bands in Christian music history. They have released 24 albums that have sold over 10 million copies, earning the group four Grammys, ten Doves, an induction into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and a fervent following. Yet, as Petra will tell you the road to success was a battle of Biblical proportions.


Petra celebrates 50 years of making meaningful music in Madison.

Petra was founded in 1972 and like many bands they faced the challenges of personal changes but Petra had even greater mountains to climb. They were compelled to take an exciting form of music - melodic hard rock to talk about the most exciting man in history - Jesus. At the time, they were told that the "devil's music" could not be played by Christians; others said their converts were not really saved. Conservative churches were against Petra and many Christian stores would not carry their products. Yet, like their heroes in the Bible they heard their calling and played their energized worship music wherever they could to build a rock solid foundation while over time winning over the doubting Thomases.

In the mid 1980's, Petra had to find another lead singer which can often be detrimental to a group. However God had other plans when John Schlitt came on board. Petra changed their sound to suit their new vocalist. With John, 1986-1994 turned out to be their most popular period. Plus, music videos exposed Petra to a wider audience including the un-churched so they were not just preaching to the choir. Petra retired from touring in 2005 but remained casually active so the limited run of 2022 dates in observance of their golden anniversary was good news to many.


John Schlitt put on a praiseworthy performance at Cornerstone.

At Cornerstone we saw fans of all ages - those who have been following Petra from day one along with kids who seemed happy to be with their parents at this historic concert. On the boards it was indicated that some people traveled from out of state to be in Nashville. Others purchased VIP tickets which included a family style meal, cake and a meet & greet with Petra who signed albums and more for the faithful. Before the concert some of Petra's classic videos were on screen in honor of this special occasion.

DJ's from 94FM The Fish (Official Concert Sponsor) were chatting during set changes when the guys from Petra casually strolled out on stage. Fans were on their feet and many remained standing throughout the night. John wasted no time, he worked the whole crowd encouraging fans to clap and sing along. The set was packed with the hits such as "Dance", a convincing "Creed", "Fools Gold", "Judas Kiss" and more. A number of songs had younger fans jumping up and down.


Petra is still making new fans with John Lawry, Bob Hartman, Greg Bailey and Cristian Borneo.

Schlitt is still a formidable front man. He interacted with fans while singing his heart out with a smile. The rest of the band had their moments in the spotlight too. John Lawry on keys got his instrument to speak the words 'Jesus loves you' during his solo. Greg Bailey (bass) and Cristian Borneo (drums) propelled the praise with punch all night long as Bob Hartman (guitar) punctuated their points.

Petra was in fine form as they rocked out their catalog but they did slow it down for an acoustic set that included a story from Bob that touched upon their history and some of the odd comments that they got in the early days. This part included the melodic and moving "Love". Returning to a faster pace they played "Jekyll & Hyde" flowing into "Beyond Belief" and a spirited "Somebody's Gonna Praise His Name" plus the uplifting encore - "All Fired Up". The Petra concert in Nashville was a true celebration of faith, music and perseverance!


Richard Varno of NOT ASHAMED help put the show together for the Nashville faithful.

In addition to a great show from Petra the night featured special guests: Devin Williams and NOT ASHAMED. Devin is a singer-songwriter, producer and worship leader based out of Nashville. He took the stage at Cornerstone sporting a colorful mohawk looking more like a punk rocker but like Petra, Devin and his band rocked hard for Jesus. Highlights of their set were "Sunshine" a serious song about getting out of an abusive relationship and the encouraging "Every Eye" which has charted on Christian Radio.

NOT ASHAMED were also clearly influenced by Petra. Their music featured anthemic guitar solos paired with riveting rhythms along with a sassy saxophone and Hammond B3 licks that are not your typical CCM sound. Plus, they had a powerful backing female vocalist. They performed originals and innovative takes on "Good Good Father > Waymaker" along with a tip of the hat to King's X.


Devin Williams played an eye-opening slot that included his chart making "Every Eye".

NOT ASHAMED had a number of compelling pieces about forgiveness and their catchy new song "Good Day" was packed with hope. It has the potential to be a staple on secular and Christian morning radio. Both acts were inspiring while validating the impact that Petra has had on the next generation of believers who like worldly music but want to use it in the context of worship.

Cornerstone is a Pentecostal Christian mega-church that consists of a diverse community of people committed to attracting, winning, developing and empowering people around the world to celebrate the life-changing presence of Jesus Christ in their lives. Cornerstone is located at 726 W Old Hickory Blvd, Madison, TN 37115 and they hold two services on Sundays along with special events such as the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Petra.


This lineup made for a memorable night in Music City.

Related Links: For more information on PETRA and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Petra | NOT ASHAMED | Devin Williams | 94 FM The Fish | Cornerstone Church Nashville

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