Petra WCC stageA noisy Sunday evening expected – rock band Petra are in town for a one off UK gig, diverted from the O2 Islington. I’m out with Charlie, a friend from church who’s also a Petra fan

We have a short introduction from Julian the promotor for this gig, then the band walk on. The crowd are really up for this, seems many of them are regular attenders at the church that meets in the venue.

Big lighting system on the stage, and a good size means the band can wander about at will, although only front man Greg X. Volz is doing this at the start. The large amount of continuous fog and smoke makes for a great light show, yet sucks for any photos I want to take to give an impression of the night.

Drummer (Louie Weaver) is on possibly the highest riser I’ve seen in town, the floor is at chest height, meaning the kit towers over the left hand side of the stage. The keyboards (John Lawry) are to the right, alongside, on a slightly lower riser, such that their head height is the same, seems a strange arrangement, but allows them to look at each other I guess.

Petra WCC GregBass (Mark Kelly) and guitar (Bob Hartman) are at the front on each side, giving Greg a lot of space to hang about in. And boy does he make use of this, leaping about on the spot, getting the crowd to join in. Not bad for a bunch of old boys, who look younger than they are, but who later reveal they’re in their 60’s (just).

Bob switches around on guitars, from electric to acoustic, and we start getting slightly gentler with a soft synth intro from John while Greg does a little talk about the Christian life.

There are a lot of these little soliloquies, all encouraging, some mini preaches, some small examples of life on the road and how God upholds them through difficulties. All these life examples get appropriate responses from the audience. Mark (bass) shares how he lost his mum while the band were touring, and how their song Grave Robber helped him through that time – a reminder that death has been overcome, and any separation we have in this life is only temporary as a result.

I’ve not said much about the music, they are in a soft rock phase by this time (halfway through Grave Robber). The first three are punchy rock, verging on the hard, and up tempo, they include Second Wind and More Power To Ya. As would be expected for a touring band of international acclaim they are tight, lead vocals strong and clear, harmonies from any of bass, guitar or keys. Greg also wails with vibrato, still perfectly in tune.

Adonai segues into Back to the Rock then we’re back to the up-tempo songs after those two slow ones. Then an alternation of slow and uptempo, such as All Over Me and God Pleaser, each one packed with a message.

Greg is so obviously enjoying himself its a real pleasure to see. He’s also well versed in stage craft, a lot of looks and talks are to the whole house, including up to the balcony. There’s also no sign of a setlist anywhere on stage, just floor boxes and wireless systems. Greg also brings the band in and out, or is it the band bring themselves in and out, and he’s just postulating accordingly?

Petra WCC duelWe’re into Judas Kiss now. Halfway through John steps down and engages in a keys vs guitar duel with Bob. Awesome stuff.

Greg announces the reason why they decided to reform after his 25 years absense: to reach those who would believe in God yet are missing out from being linked into in churches – he coins the phrase Refire, not retire.

For their encore they play Stand Up For Jesus, and get the crowd to sing the refrain Without Him We Can Do Nothing. They are called back for a second encore an so finally finish with Let Everything That Hath Breath.

Afterwards we head to O’Neills to catch a drink; Ant Lewis, Kimari Raven and Steven Pritchard are performing, so we stop by and say hello. All in all an amazing night, big thanks to Julian and No Ticket Needed for putting the gig on, to Charlie for the company, and to Petra for trouping and doing a UK gig despite the hassle over it all.