In 2005, Petra announced that it would be their final year as a band. To thank fans and end their thirty-three year career on a high note, the guys put together a live concert album that included many of their hits as well as guest appearances by classic former members. The audio record contained fourteen tracks from this event, suffering only from the lack of one important key element of a live performance... the visuals. To remedy this, the final project from the band hits streets March, 2006, in the form of a DVD version of this final performance. So does it do the band's groundbreaking career justice, you wonder?
First off, a review of the audio and actual performance itself was already written for the CD release last year, which you can read by clicking here. This review will focus primarily on the video aspects of the farewell show as well as the DVD's extra features. I will, however, sum up the effect Petra has had on my life as a Christian music listener as well as the industry itself. They were one of the first bands I listened to when I came to know Christ and their ministry was a force to be reckoned with in the 70's, 80's, and early 90's. Petra opened doors no one could dream to budge before, paving the way for many of the Christian rock acts of today. Fighting the views that rock music is inherently evil and that the band was a blasphemous endeavor, Petra was a new kind of ministry that was winning over youth to Jesus in big ways. As time progressed and music changed, Petra began to fade, but their impact would endure.
I'd first seen Petra live in the early to mid-90's and they put on quite a great rock show. I caught a glimpse of the band's performance at Creation 2004 and was surprised to see how weathered the guys looked. But it's so easy for many listeners, including myself, to write off Petra as old news, even forgotten. Recognizing the importance of what God did through their ministry should never be taken lightly, but sadly it is. From the opening moments of the Farewell DVD, it's interesting to watch a much older John Schlitt belting out tunes and swaying to the music in ways his much younger self did when I first saw them, wide-eyed, over a decade ago. If any band has earned its right to play their music as long as they have in any way they like, it's Petra. The quality of the DVD version of the show looks good from the get-go. While the camera shakes a bit too much at times, frantically moving about the stage from angle to angle, it gives almost a documentary style approach to the momentous occasion.
The real charm of the Farewell DVD may not even be the concert at all, but its special features. The best one, of course, is an eighteen minute interview with vocalist John Schlitt, former vocalist Greg X. Volz, ex-keyboardist John Lawry, and original member and guitarist Bob Hartman. Although I was a fan for many years, I was unaware of a lot of the things the band shared in the interview - specifically about how they started, how John and Greg joined when they did, and their rejection by the church when they first began playing. Understanding more about where these musicians have been helps stir up a deeper appreciation. Other features include a candid behind-the-scenes featurette of five minutes of footage taken while the guys rehearsed for the feature show, a five minute interview with InPop Records co-founder and Newsboys frontman Peter Furler, and an extensive montage of interviews with devoted "Petheads" who attended the show.
Farewell translated pretty well on CD, but was made to be a DVD. Petra fans would be crazy to miss out on this project, and those who can appreciate classic rock and the forefathers of Christian rock music should look into this little piece of history.- Review date: 3/5/06, written by John DiBiase
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