Venue: B.B. King Blues Club – NYC
Label: Big3 Records
The Yellow & Black Attack are back and tonight those Messengers Of The Most High have come to the B.B. King Blues Club in NYC to support their latest studio release “Reborn”. The last time I saw Stryper was on the Reunion tour in 2003 which not only brought the band back together after a long absence but also promoted their greatest hits release entitled “7: The Best Of Stryper”. Since that night at Irving Plaza the band has picked up some reunion steam and was playing to a very nicely crowded venue once again some two years later. However, it was not long after the Reunion tours completion that found the band losing original bassist Tim Gaines. His last recording with Stryper would be the live release of “7 Weeks Live In America”. The group would press on and replace Tim with Tracy Ferrie and set out to record a new CD of material entitled “Reborn”. On entering the venue I found it to have a larger crowd than I recalled for the Reunion and that always makes for a better vibe up on the stage. At show time the band entered from the sections of the crowd and that caused frenzy; especially when leader Michael Sweet started singing from on top of one the back bars. It also seemed that everyone in attendance was a diehard fan with the exceptions of the few who were merely curious as to how the band would be in concert. Many people dismissed the band as “Hair Metal” or “Religious Rock”, but let me stress that they are excellent musicians and this capability shows in every song that they play.
The set for the evening included a large amount of the expected hits from their earlier years and also a fair amount of new songs. They featured more new material than I felt was necessary but some bands only touch on a new release while others focus on it. The one side that was good in this was that the audience got a completely different performance from their last appearance rather than a repeat. I have to say that the new material carried over very well in the live sense sounding very tight and interesting as well. The new CD ”Reborn” is very in your face and I felt it has a little bit of “To Hell With The Devil” and “Soldiers Under Command” in it’s base content. Sweet was in top-notch form as he belted out the songs for the night, and I felt he sounded even better than the last time that I saw them. He voice is just so pure and not enhanced with effects. Guitarist Oz Fox rips it up on the guitar and for most of the set Michael played as well. He is also a killer player and the harmonies that they played were great, especially on the oldest material. After a number of songs Michael called his Brother Robert from behind the drums and the band handed out copies of the Bible. Stryper was always known for doing this during their shows as they try to get the Message out as often as they can. Yes, one of them made it over to me and so I now have a special reminder of the show. I always admired how Stryper kept to their beliefs and overall positive message in all of their music.
Another highlight of the set would be the acoustic performances of “Lady” and “Honestly”. A very brief “Stryper Unplugged” or as close as we could get. Oz joked about the fact that since they were in a Blues club that he needed to get back on those Jazz chords. I mentioned that always found Mike’s voice to be powerful but these tracks also let us see how subtle he could be when the need arose. “Honestly” would also be different and hold a very jazzy feel. No keyboards at all and I was finding the new version very well-done. A nice change of pace for the audience also. When the end of the show time drew near Michael introduced everyone and Robert did a very brief but excellent drum solo. He still sits sideways and this allows fans and other drummers to study his every move. I have always enjoyed his playing and consider him among the finest Rock drummers in the business to this very day. I also wanted to stress that new member Tracie Ferrie is a great bassist. There is a lot of showmanship in this guy and a totally suitable replacement for the absent Gaines.
I would have liked to hear “Makes Me Wanna Sing” as that was always one of my favorites as well as “Reason For The Season” but that would not happen tonight. Michael took a moment after the encore’s were performed and told the crowd that he was not there to push God on everyone but he did know that we all need Hope in today’s World. He wanted to pray for us and with us and this was a nice way to close out the show as Michael is totally sincere in his beliefs and the message that Stryper brings about. After the show the offered the chance to meet fans who had purchased the CD at the venue. It was rushed due to a show happening pretty close after their completion, but it was still a great moment for a lot of the people who came out.
Photography Notes: In the B.B. King Blues Club the group decided to do something that was very cool for their audience but very bad for someone who is there to not only enjoy the show but to cover it at the same time. They announced that flash photography would be allowed for the first three songs and I thought that was fantastic until I saw that no barrier pit was set up for Media folks. This made me need to jockey for position against everyone else who wanted pictures of Stryper. If you have never worked against diehard fans then I recommend you try it sometime because they are not going to move for you at all. Oh well, I managed to snare a few good ones just the same without any injury. This crowd was not your standard Metal maniac after all.
1. For You
2. Open Your Eyes
3. Make You Mine
4. Loud N Clear
5. Loving You
6. Rock That Makes You Roll
7. Reach Out (Bibles)
8. Calling On You
13. All For One
14. More Than A Man – encore
15. To Hell With The Devil – encore
16. Soldiers Under Command – encore
Official Web site: www.Stryper.com