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Stryper
Rocklahoma 2009
July 11, 2009
By Josh Marihugh

There's just something about music you grew up with. My first exposure to the music of Stryper came in 1987, when my dad brought home the album _To Hell With the Devil_. Many were the times the rest of the family couldn't come into the living room because Dad had again cranked up one of the Stryper albums. Stryper was the last remaining band on my short list of bands that I grew up with that I really wanted to see live. When the Rocklahoma Festival announced that Stryper was joining their lineup for 2009, I knew I had to be there.

The Rocklahoma Festival is now in its fourth year of bringing '80s-style metal madness to the northeastern Oklahoma area. This year, for the first time, they tapped a Christian band to headline the third night of the four-day festival. Stryper is gearing up for the 25th anniversary of their debut album, The Yellow and Black Attack, and has a new album, Murder By Pride, coming out in late July.

In an intro video for the concert, lead singer/guitarist Michael Sweet mentioned that this show would be something of a warmup for the  upcoming tour, and also noted that they hadn't played together in awhile, nor rehearsed much for the show. But from the opening riff of "Sing Along Song," the band proved to be every bit as tight as ever. The dual-guitar attack of Michael Sweet and Oz Fox played to maximum effect on classics such as "Reach Out" and "Free," upheld by Tracy Ferrie's thundering bass, as well as the Visual Timekeeper himself, Robert Sweet on the drums.

In response to the request of fans, the band leaned heavily on their early catalog, playing nearly all of 1987's _To Hell With the Devil_. Where some bands do a lot of song introductions and talking between songs, Michael and the band seemed to prefer to let the music speak for itself, whipping through 16 tracks in a set that lasted nearly 80 minutes.

The highlights are almost too numerous to mention, from the high-volume worship of "Calling On You" to a surprisingly powerful version of the hit ballad "Honestly." The blistering cover version of Boston's "Peace of Mind," also found on the new album, deserves mention. As Robert's manic drumming and Tracy's thumping bass set the tone, Oz and Michael traded both guitar and vocal licks. Probably the highest point of the set for me personally was a nod both to Stryper's history and their mission as a band, as they followed "Honestly"  with the now-traditional throwing of Bibles to the crowd.

The band closed their set with the one-two punch of "To Hell With the Devil" and "Makes Me Wanna Sing", choosing to end the night with a salute to the Reason we all rock, the One worthy of all praise.

Jesus, King of kings,
Jesus, makes me wanna sing!
I joked that Michael "cheated" a bit on "Makes Me Wanna Sing," choosing not to try to hit the near octave jump of the final note. Time may have taken its toll on Michael's ability to hit the high notes, but it hasn't diminished the band's ability to rock with the best of them. As the crowd dispersed into the Oklahoma night, I prayed that others were touched by the presence of God in the same way I was.
 

Set List:
Battle Hymn of the Republic (pre-recorded intro)
Sing-Along Song
Murder By Pride
The Rock That Makes Me Roll
Reach Out
Open Your Eyes
Calling On You
Free
More Than a Man
Peace of Mind
Four Leaf Clover
Honestly
Loud 'N Clear
Soldiers Under Command
The Way
The Abyss (To Hell With the Devil) (pre-recorded encore intro)
To Hell With the Devil
Makes Me Wanna Sing

Photos
 

 
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