Stryper lead memorable service at Altar Bar

Legendary Christian rockers Stryper are in the midst of a rebirth or Second Coming if you will. The band is currently riding high on a monster wave of success following the release of their newest album No More Hell To Pay, which has rekindled the flame for both fans and critics alike. Not that the band ever went away, but interest in the band is at an all time high and after 30 years in the business, it’s members are at the top of their game.

The band is out on the road bringing their message of hope, peace and love of Jesus Christ to sold out venues everywhere they go. With a new Stryper release, a solo album and a book all out at the same time, Michael Sweet and company are busier than ever. If the tour hits your town, it would serve your soul well to attend the revival.

The lucky fans in Pittsburgh got to see the band at the Altar Bar, a former church in the heart of the city that for one glorious evening the was returned to it’s former glory once again serving the purpose for which it was intended and built. The congregation had gathered and the church of Stryper was now in session.

Pittsburgh’s own Xander Demos Band got things going and set the parishioners in motion with a blistering set of technical melodic rock. Think Dream Theater meets Dokken. Vocalist Mario Brescia’s voice was as crisp and sharp as ever, cutting through the silence like a straight razor and guitarist Xander Demos’ solos are the stuff legends are made of, rivaling greats like Malmsteen, Vai and Satriani. One day his name too will be held in the same high regard.

The band frequently lands the opening slot for national bands coming through the Pittsburgh area and with damn good reason. They are the Burgh’s premiere musical export. At the rate they are going, it is just a matter of time before they are a household name. As usual, their set was a huge success and well received by the crowd. So were the shirts they kept throwing into the audience.

Another of Pennsylvania’s finest, Angelight was next and much like Stryper, they too Rock For The King. They are supporting their debut album Prisoner and are a beautiful amalgamate of melodic hard rock bands such as Sevendust, Breaking Benjamin or 10 Years and contemporary Christian rock bands like Red, Skillet and We As Human.

[lg_slideshow folder=\”2014/Stryper No More Hell To Pay Tour/Angelight/\”]

The band delivered a flawless set of killer melodic hard rock and had won the crowd over by the end of their very first song. The band owned the stage like seasoned pros. All the while lead singer and bassist Nathan King’s dreadlocks took on a life of their own as he thrashed about the stage and with a performance as strong as theirs it won’t be long before they are on every stereo in the world.

At last redemption had come in the form of the Yellow And Black Attack. Their powerhouse set started with “God” and “Revelation” from No More Hell To Pay, all the while tossing their patented Stryper bibles into the audience. From there they dove into a rousing rendition of “Loud N Clear” that Michael Sweet stopped in the middle of to make sure everyone was singing the anthemic chorus as loud as they possibly could.

Sweet’s stage presence, solos and voice knows no equal and at 50 years old, his command of the crowd is still the best in the business. He even joked that at one point he had to bend over to read the set list due to his age, but make no mistake, his performance now is as good as it was in his twenties- as is Oz Fox’s and Timothy Gaines,’ their harmonies as breathtaking as ever and even though he’s in the back, as always, The Visual Timekeeper Robert Sweet demanded his share of the attention.

It’s wasn’t just the band or their epic performances that helped to make this such a majestic concert experience. It’s was the songs. Classics like “Free,” “Calling On You” and “Always There For You” were sung so loudly by the fans that they actually drowned out the band at times. In fact, Michael barely had to sing “Honestly” at all.

The classics may have got the loudest sing alongs, but it was heavier numbers like “More  Than A Man,” “The Way,” “No More Hell To Pay” and the Reborn version of “In God We Trust” that drove the fans into the biggest frenzy of the night. The high note at the end of “In God We Trust” lasted well over thirty seconds and garnered one of the loudest responses of the show.

[lg_slideshow folder=\”2014/Stryper No More Hell To Pay Tour/Stryper /\”]

Throughout the evening Michael made sure to engage everyone in the crowd. From those in the balcony, all the way to the people up front that he touched hands with during the night, he was a man of few words and really only stopped after “Marching Into Battle” to give the band their introductions and to say, “You guys know who I am right. I’m Mike and it’s a pleasure to be here with you all tonight.”

The acapella sing along of “Soldiers Under Command” before the hard rocking regular version was amazing and beautiful at the same time and undoubtedly one of the true highlights of the concert. As it faded, the band briefly exited the stage before “The Abyss” started pumping through the loud speakers. By the time “To Hell With The Devil” was over, the fans had been treated to a staggering 17 songs and a full hour and a half of entertainment by one of the greatest bands of all time. Who could possibly ask for more?

-Eric Hunker