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Petra at 50 - The Mission Continues in Brentwood

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Christian rockers Petra celebrated a milestone moment when they recently hit the half-century mark of being a Gospel-proclaiming band. So, the worthy occasion is being celebrated with a global trek and run of dates around the world. Their hometown stop at New Hope Church in Brentwood, Tennessee on Saturday, November 04, 2023 was sold-out with lots of special guests on hand to add to the festivities and joyous family atmosphere.


The Petra Reunion Tour returned to Mid-Tenn in 2023.

The band Petra has been preaching the Good News for over 50 years. To this day they are musicians on a mission to tell people about Jesus and to encourage people in their faith. Founded in 1972, Petra faced similar challenges to their contemporaries in the secular music world. However, they had even greater mountains to move.

In the beginning, many churches and popular preachers said they were playing the "devil's music" because they blended hard rock melodies with lyrics about God. Yet, Petra's conviction in their mission would carry them through and over time they converted many to appreciate that their energized evangelical music was bearing fruit.


John Schlitt - the voice of Christian hard rock - in Brentwood.

Those fruits were on full display at the Petra Reunion concert. The band played a career spanning set that had the house on their feet most of the night. We noticed that there were fans of all ages at this show from youngsters with their families to folks who have been following the group since their inception. Those fervent followers were helping the merchandise stand do a brisk business as Petra Reunion themed shirts and CDs were a popular item leading up to show time.

The event started off with a VIP Meet & Greet. The members of Petra along with some guests answered questions from the audience for about 30 minutes. That segment included the inquiry "what is your favorite Petra song?" directed to each person on the panel that featured Petra, Phil Keaggy, Rex Carroll of Whitecross and the trio known as P.I.D. (Preachers In Disguise).


Greg Bailey and John Lawry of Petra in Brentwood.

P.I.D. shared that Petra inspired them to create Christian music around their culture. Founded in the 1980's, P.I.D. are considered one of the founders of the holy hip-hop scene. After the Q&A, the artists were available to say hi and sign items. Before the concert, videos of Petra and comments from people they have influenced were shown on the large screen over the stage.

"Hello, Family. Praise God!" greeted lead singer John Schlitt. Petra opened with an engaging "Right Place" stepping into "Dance" and "Fool's Gold". Fans joyfully clapped and sang along to the classics. "This Means' War" was a potent testimonial about their battles as a band that flowed into a solo by John Lawry on keys who got his instrument to speak the words 'Jesus loves you'. "Creed" was another powerful moment as John declared their beliefs.


A special take on "John the Revelator" revealed heavenly guitar skills.

Bob Hartman (guitarist) talked a bit about their struggles in the 1970's before they shifted to an acoustic set of pretty praise music. Returning to the rock with "Jekyll & Hyde" that flowed into a buoyant "Beyond Belief". Later, the encore was another declaration of faith as "He Came, He Saw, He Conquered" put an exclamation point of praise to end the concert on high while proving that Petra still takes their mission work very seriously.

The night kicked off with P.I.D. who presented a concise set of songs from their early days and one new track. We were glad that their lyrics were on the screen as their delivery was rapid and they did point the mic out to the crowd to respond to their rap. Clapping was also encouraged. It was reported that an Amazon documentary was coming out this month about P.I.D. so be on the lookout for that.


Richard Varno at the Petra Reunion concert in Brentwood.

NOT ASHAMED followed P.I.D. Their music had anthemic guitar solos melding with riveting rhythms along with a sassy saxophone and Hammond B3 licks that are not your typical CCM sound. Plus, they had a formable female vocalist who blended well with the band's founder and fiery front man Richard Varno. NOT ASHAMED performed originals and innovative takes on "Good Good Father > Waymaker" along with a tip of the hat to King's X. One of our favorites from this group is the fun radio hit "Good Day". As the name implies it is uplifting and a great way to start any day off on the right foot.

P.I.D. joined NOT ASHAMED for a tune and then Phil Keaggy came out. For those who may not know, Phil's solo career has spanned more than 40 years, and has included over 60 solo albums, both vocal and instrumental, 8 releases with his band, Glass Harp, as well as numerous duets and trio albums. Keaggy is also a much-admired guitarist who has been recognized countless times by guitar focused publications.


Phil Keaggy at the Petra Reunion concert in Brentwood.

Keaggy armed with a Les Paul Sunburst jammed with NOT ASHAMED on the rousing "My Everything". Next, Bob Hartman and Rex Carroll joined the gathering for the classic "John The Revelator". This version had a lot of guitar star power. NOT ASHAMED closed their animated set with their own spin on Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground".

Not to be outdone or overshadowed Rex Carroll delivered a long flurry of notes and complicated chords as part of his enrapturing "Nagasake" which to our ears sounded a lot like the Christian response to Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption". At the very least it was explosive and bombastic.


Rex Carroll at the Petra Reunion concert in Brentwood.

The long awaited Petra Reunion was a celebration of Christian rock and thanks are in order to New Hope Church for hosting this concert. Founded in 1977, New Hope Church in Brentwood, Tennessee aspires to make Christ known in every aspect of life; loving one another through authentic fellowship, while serving Christ through the church and missions with God-given gifts and talents.


P.I.D. at the Petra Reunion concert in Brentwood.

Related Links: For more information on PETRA and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Petra | NOT ASHAMED | Phil Keaggy | P.I.D. | Rex Carroll | New Hope Church | Petra Celebrates 50 Years of Christian Rock at Cornerstone in Madison


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