Stryper @ Stage 48

MANHATTAN, NY—Vocalist/guitarist Michael Sweet and drummer Robert Sweet became born-again Christians in 1975. Inspired by the burgeoning nearby Los Angeles hard rock bands such as Van Halen, but distressed by their message, the Orange County-based Sweet brothers formed a band that would extol their worldview and religious beliefs. With a bassist, the Sweets originally formed Roxx Regime in 1983 as a trio. When the band began looking to add a guitarist, rumors exist that future Dio and Whitesnake guitarist Doug Aldrich and future Poison member C.C. DeVille auditioned. Oz Fox landed the position. With Tim Gaines on bass, Stryper was complete.

Stryper adopted its name from an Old Testament prophecy, wore black and yellow-striped outfits fitting the name, tossed New Testaments into the audience and became the first overtly Christian heavy metal band to sell more than 10 million records. In the mid 1980s, Stryper had the most requested videos on MTV, but popularity waned by the end of the 1980s hair metal era. Michael Sweet left the band to pursue a successful solo career, and later a four-year stint co-fronting the classic rock band Boston. Stryper disbanded shortly thereafter in 1992. After a sabbatical for much of the 1990s, Stryper resurrected in the early 21st century, reuniting several times since 2000. The band’s newest album, No More Hell To Pay, was released in November 2013.

At a splendid new ballroom-styled venue in midtown Manhattan called Stage 48, Stryper tonight fulfilled a commitment that was cancelled due to a severe January snowstorm. The stage set was less elaborate than in the glam metal heyday, and instead of bi-colored spandex, the four musicians dressed mostly in black cotton and denim, each wearing only a subtle stripe of yellow here or there. The quartet’s classic lineup performed old hits and new songs, beginning with “Loud ‘N’ Clear.” Building on the band’s signature sound of clear singing, big melodies with rousing choruses, and seamlessly entwined twin guitar harmonies, the group incorporated a modern and rougher alternative-rock-almost-grunge edge to the presentation as the show launched further with “Reach Out,” “Calling On You” and “Free.” Stryper refused to simply press “replay,” instead playing like a hungry band breaking into the 21st century.

Midway in the show, in an unrehearsed moment, actor/comedian/drummer Richard Christy, formerly of Iced Earth and other extreme metal bands, and currently a side player on The Howard Stern Show, joined what he later said was his favorite band on “Sing Along Song.” The set even included a rocking cover of KISS’ “Shout It Out Loud.” The power ballad “Honestly” was not performed and would not have fit smoothly into the aggressive hard rocking performance, but fan favorites “Always There For You,” “To Hell With The Devil” and “Soldiers Under Command” helped rally the end of the 17-song set with an anthemic, arena-ready flare.

Unlike typical heavy metal concerts, fans did not raise devil horns to the band, instead poking stubby “one way” fingers heavenward. The musicians tossed New Testaments to those near the stage, ending with Michael Sweet stretching over the edge of the stage to hand one to a young girl sitting on her dad’s shoulders. After 30 years in heavy metal, Stryper still moshed extremely well for the glory of God!


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