I have to be quite honest up front. I am not as familiar with Stryper as I might come across. I remember listening to them when I was a teenager, but was never what you would call a huge fan. The first thing I noticed was the fans in the crowd. There were fans with Stryper concert shirts that they had probably kept since the 1980’s and then there was the women with their hair teased up wearing tight jeans, heels and body glitter all over. I thought I was back in my teen years and felt young again.
There were two opening bands, Manic Drive and Flight Patterns (which features Stryper vocalist Michael Sweet’s son Michael Sweet Jr.). They both did good jobs of getting the crowd pumped up for a night with the legendary Christian rockers.
There was probably a 30-40 minute wait before Stryper finally took the stage, which seemed like an eternity to everyone there, but the next hour and a half that was to come was full of songs spanning an impressive 25 years. They played some great songs from their new albums Murder by Pride (2009) and Reborn (2005) and I was quite impressed with the new stuff, but it could be considered very mainstream for today’s musical tastes.
In between songs their was some stories about the old days when they noticed Rob Halford of Judas Priest in the crowd at one of their concerts. They talked about how they brought him up on stage and played the Priest classic Hell Bent For Leather with him. Then we got to enjoy a cover of that song. We also got to enjoy the Stryper version of Boston’s Peace of Mind, which comes from Murder By Pride. It should be noted, that although Michael Sweet is the frontman of Stryper, he is also one of the touring and recording guitarists for Boston, when he’s not with his Yellow and Black bandmates and Piece of Mind is a great hybrid of both his bands.
Half way through the set, Michael and brother Robert stopped to toss some of the ‘Stryper’ branded bibles into the crowd, which is a staple of each live show. I have to say the drummer Robert Sweet’s hair looked like it had not changed since the big hair days of the 80’s and it was amazing to look at! All the other band members played like they had not lost a step over the years. Lead guitarist Oz Fox had his guitar screaming all night long and bassist Tim Gaines laid down the foundations like he had never left the band before this reunion. Finally, lead guitarist and vocalist Michael Sweet was hitting notes that I’m sure many singers half his age could only dream of hitting. All the members rocked, despite having battled flu over the last few weeks and actually had to cancel a few dates on the tour because of the illness.
The band played a great set that left us wanting more. Of course an encore was needed to finish out the show – when the band came back on stage for the last time, they went right into the classic and career defining "To Hell With The Devil".
I have to say this is the first concert I have ever been to that the lead singer wasn’t shouting out "F" bombs all night and it was kind of refreshing. A great night was had by all.
November 21, 2009
The Red Room
Review By Gord Dunbar
Photos By Andrew Chin