Stryper Preaches To The Faithful At The Agora
May 7th, 2018
Iconic Christian Metal band Stryper kicked off their new tour Sunday night at Cleveland's Agora Theater. The thirty-five year old outfit dropped their newest album, God Damn Evil on April 20th. Local metal band Hell and Back opened the show with a spirited thirty-five minute set.
The first "Openly Christian" metal band, the outfit was controversial in many conservative circles in their early days for playing Metal, the "Devil's Music." Openly embraced by young listeners, religious or otherwise, they found crossover success with their huge album To Hell With The Devil, released in October of 1986. Spawning three heavily-rotated MTV singles, the album went on to gain platinum status and a Grammy nomination.
Remaining largely intact and reforming after a break in the 1990s, the seminal band has continued to record and tour for the last twenty years.
Making a return to the 216 last night, frontman and band founder Michael Sweet took the stage and whipped the smallish Sunday night crowd into a fury. Starting the evening with "Yahweh" and then seguing directly into "The Valley" from 2015's Fallen, Sweet showed that this legacy outfit still has plenty of fuel left in the tank.
Thanking the crowd for coming out late on a Sunday evening, he mentioned that the Cleveland stop was the first night on their new tour; he hawked the new release, and the band played several tunes from God Damn Evil.
Offering a massive twenty song set, the rockers played for almost two hours. Sweet would stop every so often, a million watt smile projecting into the rafters, to offer commentary on the night's proceedings.
Noticeably absent was longtime I'm-in-then-I'm-out bassist Tim Gaines. The journeyman musician, who has had several stints with the band, left in October of last year and was replaced by Perry Richardson of Firehouse fame.
As a predominantly Christian band, it's amazing at how much crossover appeal these artists have. As I'm sure you've seen, these guys can rock. While the lyrics can be heavy-handed on occasion, their ability to shred doesn't play second fiddle to the message they're attempting to impart on the audience. I'd go out on a limb and say that if you walked into a Stryper gig with no knowledge of who they were, you'd be hard pressed to tell they were a traditional Christian band. Or a Christian band at all, for that matter.
Leave the preconceptions at home and listen to their new album, goddammit. I think you'd be in for a pleasant surprise. At the very least, you'll hear a slickly-produced album by a group of musicians still at the top of their game, even after thirty-five years of doing what they do best: Bringing their message to the faithful flock of fans.
After all, isn't that what all artists do?
Review and Photos by Brian M. Lumley