August 2, 2016 Stryper Shines At Stage 48 New York, NY 7-24-16 w/ Lost Legacy & Headstone 118
Earlier this past spring, the iconic Rock band from California, Stryper, announced an American tour in support of their 2015 album, Fallen. Their eighth overall album, Stryper has maintained a very consistent lineup through the decades with Michael Sweet (lead vocals/lead guitar), Robert Sweet (drums), Oz Fox (guitar/vocals), and Timothy Gaines (bass/vocals). Despite this constant, the group did take a decade long hiatus between the years of 1993 and 2003 to pursue other life projects. For a long time, many assumed they were a done deal, including Michael Sweet himself, and thus the idea of reunion was far out of reach. Then, in late 2003, Stryper dusted off their yellow and black outfits and went on a Celebration tour, thus leading to their official return soon after. Luckily for fans, they have stuck around ever since and have not disappointed anyone as they endlessly tour as well as releasing new tunes that continue to spread positivity and uplifting vibes.
A hard-hitting Metal machine, they have sold over ten million albums as they continuously release high quality albums including 1986’s Grammy nominated To Hell With the Devil. Often labelled a Christian band, Stryper does not conform to anyone else’s agenda aside from their own as they shred, shine, and raise Rock-n-Roll into their listener’s ears. Originally scheduled to appear on June 12th at Stage 48 in New York City, due to circumstances beyond anyone’s, nor the venue’s, control, the show was unexpectedly canceled last minute. Luckily, Stryper and Stage 48 managed to instantly re-schedule a show for Sunday, July 24th, and before anyone knew it, the rain date had arrived.
Devoted Stryper fans showed up early to the venue and rushed their way towards the front of the stage to find their spot early on, before the room packed out. That in mind, a handful in the audience was eager to hear the first act of the night, the Pennsylvania Rock group Headstone 118. The trio formed their latest lineup including Jeremy Rohrbach (singer/guitarist), Bill Dilks (bass), and Mark Lackman (drums) in 2007, however, under a previous lineup, they formed in 2000. Releasing their self-titled debut album in 2007, in 2012, their follow-up record Left Behind hit the market. A part of the show lineup from the original scheduled date, they were ready to share their soothing Rock-n-Roll tunes mixed with their personal viewpoints on life.
Kicking off their set with”Far Away” and “Left Behind,” the audience appeared to be enjoying the band’s brand of bluesy tunes. During the next, “One Day,” Rohrbach went into a few Groove-esque solos and smooth jams that brought a calm to the crowd. The music continued with their heart-driven Christian beliefs on the songs “The Throne,” “Temporary Life,” and “I Believe.” Then, as the set came to a close, Rohrbach engaged with the crowd, stating how there was one more song left for the night and thanked the audience along with asking everyone to give a shout out to the next act, Lost Legacy. Opening up a bit more to the audience, he expressed how everyone should stand up for things they believe in and how much the fans meant to the band as they went into their finale song, “No Compromise.” Having everyone cheering, Headstone 118 was a fitting supporting act for the night.
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The evening took an edgier shift when it was time for the Bronx, New York Power Metal act Lost Legacy to take the stage. The attitude ignited when members David Franco (vocals), Winston Omar Mejia (lead guitar), Jorge Pulido (lead guitar), Jochen Wittlinger (bass), and Nando Carrero (drums) energetically walked onto the platform. Forming in 1998, they have opened up for several major acts including Lizzy Borden, Doro Pesch, Winger, Whiplash, and Metal Church. Just like Stryper, they are known for creating positive messages in their music, but using other elements from their musical influences such as Helloween and Testament.
Ready to go, Franco ran across the stage with such an adrenaline rush that his hair continued to fly in his face, yet this did not seem to prevent him from missing a note as he sang “For The Children.” Each member shared their distinct individual style as songs such as “GCode” and “The Towers” continued. Then, Franco raised an American flag into the audience, as the room cheered with American pride as the band rocked into “Battle Cry.” Continuing with songs such as “Take Me Away,” Franco continued to engage with the audience till the very end. Those who missed this performance, Lost Legacy is quite active playing shows in New York and they recently hinted on their Facebook page of an announcement coming up on August 28th that they will be supporting another major headliner.
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At this point in the night, the front of stage was bit congested with eager fans holding out their cell phones and drinks, ready to rock with Stryper. That in mind, the moment Michael, Robert, Fox, and Gaines walked onto the platform rightfully in their yellow and black color-schemed clothing and instruments, a roar of cheers erupted. Opening up with new tune “Yahweh” from Fallen, many fans began to sing-along. Following the explosive opening, Michael thanked everyone for coming out and jokingly announced who they were by stating how they have been around for thirty-two years. He then shared his excitement to the intimate New York crowd as he unleashed the news that another tour lasting from September to November is ahead in honor of the 30th anniversary tour to help celebrate their To Hell With the Devil album as he held out a copy of the album in his hand. Moving along, Michael went back to 1984 as they played on with “You Know What To Do” from the debut album, The Yellow and Black Attack, followed by “Always There For You” from 1988’s In God We Trust.
Engaging the crowd more, Michael announced their next selection would be the one original song from their 2011 The Covering album. Often referred to as “The Cover Album,” the song they chose to play was the one original of the tracklist and it was the riveting “God.” Continuing on with bright strobe lights beaming out as the band cut through the air with bold sounds, they went into songs from different points of their career including “Revelation,” “Rock the People,” and “Co’mon Rock.” Taking it all in, Michael looked into the audience between songs, smile expressing how good it was to be back in New York City, prior to ripping into a few more cover songs including the Black Sabbath’s “Heaven & Hell” and Kiss’ “Shout It Out Loud.”
As the set was heating up, it was time for the momentum to cool down with the ballad-esque tune “Lady” from 1990’s Against the Law, but the tempo picked right back up for “All For One.” From there, the energy did not dissipate as Michael and Fox dueled out on the guitar during “Surrender” and Michael announced the next tune would see Stryper moving back to the year 1988, transitioning to the title track of In God We Trust. Turning the time around again, they went directly into the title track of 2013’s No More Hell To Pay before another cover tune from their favorite band, Van Halen, with “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love,” followed by another new original, “King of Kings.”
With so much ground covered already, Fox grabbed the microphone and introduced the band to the audience, ecstatic to announce all original members were still intact. Looking into the crowd, he mentioned how much he loved being back in New York City before Michael took the microphone back just in time for what was thought to be their last song, “Soldiers Under Command.” Exiting briefly, Stryper was encouraged to return, and return they did with an encore that lifted off with “Makes Me Wanna Sing.” Gazing out into the audience once more, Michael thanked everyone for being with them instead of being across town at the river to New Jersey where Guns N’ Roses happened to be playing at the same time. Fox played along with Michael’s humor as they briefly went into the introduction of “Sweet Child of Mine.” Continuing to interact with the fans as if they were family, Michael discussed the year 1986 and asked if there was anyone in the house alive that year. The crowd laughed as Michael continued to express how great the ’80s were as he admitted that no one could tell the difference between the boys and girls back then with their long hair and makeup. This led to the finale of the performance with a medley that included parts of “Calling On You,” “Free,” and “To Hell With The Devil.”
The chemistry on the stage that night between all members was visibly strong. Along with their love to perform, Stryper still show they are as vital as ever thirty years later. The Fallen Tour is continuing throughout the summer and that includes a free show on August 11th in Des Moines, IA at the Iowa State Fair. After this evening, it is evident that there is a bigger future and tour in store for Stryper with the 30th Anniversary tour of To Hell With the Devil being just around the corner. Get out there and see this gifted act as they share the feelings of hope, joy, and the genuine celebration of being alive in the form of Heavy Metal music.