THE BREAKDOWN ROOM - Rock. Writing. Redefined.

Stryper Rocks the Hell Out of The Avalon

Whatever label you want to assign to Stryper, Christian rock, glam metal, or just plain hard rock, the band's positive message and energetic set united the audience under one banner on March 5, at The Avalon, in Santa Clara, Calif.

Opening things with "Sing-Along Song" from Stryper's 1986 album, To Hell With the Devil, the crowd played its part, singing back to the band on cue from guitarist Oz Fox, who handled lead vocals on the song. The title track from Stryper's 2009 release, Murder By Pride, came next, as frontman and guitarist Michael Sweet stepped up to the lead microphone. The 501 fans in attendance roared their approval, giving the singer, who is known for his dynamic vocal range, a hearty ovation.

Sweet, who admitted to the crowd he was under the weather, still put on an impressive display as Stryper's trademark three-part vocal harmony soared between the lead singer, Fox and bassist Timothy Gaines. Drummer Robert Sweet also played at a high level, laying down a steady and powerful groove.

Stryper, on tour in support of The Covering, its 2011 release which sports 12 cover songs and 1 new track, performed a healthy dose of the album. Enthusiastic renditions of Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell," KISS' "Shout it Out," Ozzy Osbourne's "Over the Mountain," and Kansas' "Carry On My Wayward Son," along with others, joined classic Stryper songs such as "Soldiers Under Command," "To Hell With the Devil," "Reach Out" and more.

Despite the band being comprised of Christians and its music focused on the members' interpretations of the word of God, surprisingly very little vocal discussion on the subject occurred during the show. While Stryper kept up its tradition of throwing out bibles to the crowd, one fan, after asking frontman Michael Sweet to "preach about the Lord," was greeted with a response of "listen to the lyrics of the songs."

Overall, the approximate 85-minute performance was received well by the audience. Numerous fans remarked after the show about the high level of musicianship and a set list that stretched back to Stryper's debut album, 1984's Yellow and Black Attack.

One complaint, however, was the complete lack of attention paid to the band's very popular 1988 album, In God We Trust; its 1991 release, Against the Law; and 2005's Reborn. Although one has to admire Stryper's dedication to supporting its current album, adding three more songs to its set to cover at least one track from each of its records seems prudent for a group with eight studio releases.

A number of local bands opened the show. The highlight was a cover of King's X's track "Looking for Love" by Christian rockers Radio Friendly, based out of Modesto, Calif.

March 5, 2011
The Avalon
Santa Clara, Calif.

- Brian Heaton

Copyright 2011, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.