Stryper @ Fillmore at Irving Plaza (9/18/2009)

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Artist: Stryper
Venue: Fillmore at Irving Plaza (New York, NY)
Opener: Manic Drive, Flight Patterns
Date: 9/18/2009
Label: Big3 Records

In celebration of the bands 25th Anniversary, Stryper was back in New York City to deliver their most cherished hits and also the best material from their newest studio release “Murder By Pride”. While I clearly walk on the heavier side of Metal’s providers these days, I have always enjoyed what Stryper did and how they managed to successfully blend their positive messages into some truly powerful Hard Rock music. They were a constant on MTV with their videos and this was at a time when being on the network actually meant something to heavy music fans. Resultant of this a number of their tunes became radio staples and now over two decades later are bona fide classics. To the best of my knowledge they had not toured around these parts since 2005 when I caught them in support of their “Reborn” CD. The tour was also the introduction to the fans of their new bass player Tracy Ferrie after founding member Tim Gaines had decided to move on and pursue other interests. Traumatic family issues put the band on hold as Michael Sweet’s wife Kyle was diagnosed and eventually succumbed to Ovarian cancer. The bands newest release came only months after she had passed away and perhaps his touring with the guys again was helping in the healing process as much as his own faith would be doing. Returning for the tour would be original bassist Tim Gaines stepping back into place for the absent Ferrie. Originally the tour was set to be done in two parts with the first half being new material and the second half the older classics. Ferrie had issues of his own to deal with and this would prevent him from the rigors of touring with the band. The show was at The Fillmore NY in The Big Apple and while there would be a number of opening acts we would not arrive until just before Stryper was set to hit the stage. I had initially wanted to see the band that singer Dayna Jade was fronting as well as witness what Flight Patterns was all about. The latter band actually features Michael Sweet’s son so the plan was to absorb them if at all possible. Alas this would not be the case but here is how the Stryper set went down.

Tonight’s show was to be the second NY region performance as the band was scheduled to play up at The Chance in Poughkeepsie, NY. However, I learned that on the day of the show that this event was cancelled and while the reasons are unclear to me, it was surely going to guarantee that the crowd here in the Apple was bigger and louder on behalf of their boys. The stage was decorated perfectly for the celebration and had a giant Stryper 25th Anniversary Tour banner as the backdrop behind a very massive sidewise positioned drum kit for Robert Sweet. The amps all had the signature yellow and black striped design and when the guys came out they had sleek outfits that bore the same familiar colors. Of course these outfits were rock solid and a far cry from the bumblebee spandex from the bands big eighties heyday. As they hit the stage they launched into the surprising opener of “Soldiers Under Command” and this sounded great as an intro as opposed to being relegated to the shows final tune or encore. From there it was onto the title track of the new release and I had to say that it sounded pretty good in the concert sense and worked well next to the opening classic track. They went way back to the band’s debut for “Loud N’ Clear” and this showcased just how great a lead guitarist Michael was in his own right and also this would be the only inclusion from “The Yellow and Black Attack”. The interesting thing about the way the set list was built this evening was in how it would go back and forth as opposed to forming a chronological list from beginning until now. I think this way was a lot more fun when it came down to it. The expected hits were all there and the most killer stuff came by way of the powerhouse “More Than A Man” and the MTV video staple of “Calling On You”. They would not do “I’m Always There For You” this evening, but since its so close to “Calling” I didn’t mind but a true glaring omission came when the song “Passion” from “Reborn” was not delivered. From that release we only got “Open Your Eyes” which is another of the albums strongest tunes.

Knowing Michael’s affiliation with the band Boston and that Stryper had recorded their own version of the tune “Piece Of Mind” made the songs delivery no real surprise to me but it was still truly kick ass since they did such an amazing job of it. I had to say that Sweet’s voice is a logical choice for that band to put into action when he is not too busy working with his main band. As I glanced over the set list that was being performed it seemed that a good concentration of the tunes were coming from the new album and as expected the bands biggest release of them all “To Hell With The Devil”. I had only briefly heard “Murder By Pride” before the show and was not yet used to it, but could safely say how the material that was played from the album seemed to work very well within the context of what they had done in the past and where they were aiming at in the future. Both Oz and Sweet were ripping at the strings and even though he was visibly calm and collective on the bass, you could see a sly grin from Gaines who seemed very happy to be taking part in this great tour. Through it all drummer Robert Sweet was a relentless pounder and I stand by my view of him as one of heavy rocks finest drummers. The down side would be no real drum solo from him this evening.

The crowd was enthusiastic for the show and the attendance by my gauge was just under 1000 based on how I have viewed shows at the space before. Love them or hate them, these guys brought in more people than the last four big attraction Metal bands combined by my count. There was not an incredible amount of talking other than the appreciation for being there and having their support for the time that they have been a working band. Of course the group would pause for a few moments to do their tossing out of the bibles to the crowd. To my recollection this was done just before “Honestly”. Having caught one a few years ago I didn’t try to get another one this time around but I did wonder if they looked any different from the one from that show. All in all the show was really fantastic and for those who feel that Stryper is on the lame side, well I encourage them to check out a live show since they really come off as a lot heavier. The evening would close up with the dramatic intro “The Abyss” that takes us into “To Hell With The Devil”, and like many numbers that preceded it had the audience singing along at the top of their lungs. The song “On Fire” was listed on the laminated set list posted on the stage but it was not performed and since I don’t recall a song by the band with this title was wondering if we would be missing out on a Van Halen cover. That would have been sweet, if you will pardon the pun. We would also not get the usual closing prayer that Michael does at the end of every single show and that surprised me very, very much since it’s a big part of what they do. The band’s late start and numerous openers ran this gig too close to the venue curfew and I am willing to bet that this is the main reason that there were some changes. Happy Anniversary to Stryper and here is to the next 25 years.

This was a great couple of weeks for the Metal community as not only did we have a German invasion with Doro Pesch, EdGuy, and Primal Fear last week, but just the other day the mighty Stratovarius had returned with a killer new release and new axe slinger in tow. We reported on three out of the four events and now the weekend was here and the Stryper show would only be the beginning. Tomorrow was Chris Caffery (Savatage & Trans-Siberian Orchestra) and also the band Gwynbleidd – is it possible to hit both shows on the same day and for that matter successfully attend three shows in the course of a twenty four hour time frame? Let’s see what happens.

Stryper Set List:
1. Soldiers Under Command
2. Murder By Pride
3. Loud N’ Clear
4. The Rock That Makes Me Roll
5. Reach Out
6. Calling On You
7. Free
8. More Than A Man
9. Alive
10. Peace Of Mind
11. 4 Leaf Clover
12. Eclipse For The Son
13. Honestly
14. Open Your Eyes
15. All For One
16. My Love (I’ll Always Show)
17. The Way
18. Abyss
19. To Hell With The Devil
20. On Fire (omitted)

1 from The Yellow And Black Attack
3 from Soldiers Under Command
6 from To Hell With The Devil
0 from In God We Trust
1 from Against The Law
1 from Reborn
6 from Murder By Pride

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