A couple of years ago Stryper headlined the "Maata Näkyvissä"-festival in Turku, and played a storming set in front of 11.000 people. With that in mind, the fact that they were now playing at Nosturi, which holds approx. 800 people, might seem like a failure, but that's really not the case. "Maata Näkyvissä" is a special event where the Christian youth of Finland come together pretty much regardless of the acts, and many of them wouldn't go to "normal" gigs. Anyway, Nosturi was sold out, and most of the people in there were true Stryper fans, not curious listeners who "just happened to be there". The audience demographic of the gig was something different to standard shows at Nosturi, as a large percentage of the crowd was under 18 and devoted Christian rock fans. I assume that the bartenders weren't overworked at this event.
While it's good for the band, the venue and the genre that the show was sold-out, Nosturi isn't that nice a venue to watch gigs when it's full. It took some time to find a decent spot where to have some kind of a view to the stage. The band sounded good though, so thumbs up for that. The young Stryper-maniacs had populated the first rows and they were all hyped up, some of them dressed in home-made Stryper attire and eagerly waiting for the show to begin. They didn't have to wait too long, as there was no support act and the main attraction took the stage as scheduled.
The anthemic "Soldiers Under Command" was the opener, and the opening riffs got the crowd going. Not long after the intro Michael Sweet ditched his guitar and concentrated on singing, which wasn't a planned move. He had broken a string, so Mr. Oz Fox had to take care of the guitar parts on his own. There was a short break before the next song, the superb title track of the latest album "Murder By Pride", as the guitar problem was taken care of. And... after a bar or two, Sweet broke another string, and had to hand out his guitar to the roadie again! Not a great start for a gig, but I don't think that anyone really cared, as both songs sounded okay with just Fox on guitar too. The "Visual Timekeeper" Robert Sweet was a tornado of hair behind his drumkit, sitting sideways as usual. The other part of the rhythm section was Stryper's original bassist Tim Gaines, who recently returned to the band.
Apart from "MOP", the first half of the set was full of classic tracks fron the first few albums, and each of them was cherished by the crowd. The vibe of the gig seemed to change when the band got to the Boston cover "Peace Of Mind". As good as a song it is, it just didn't work for this crowd, and I noticed that even some of the Stryper-maniacs seemed like they had run out of steam. The very vintage-sounding "4 Leaf Clover" spiced things up a bit, but the tiresome "Open Your Eyes" killed the vibe again. Thankfully, my personal favourite "All For One" (from "Against The Law") seemed to be a favourite of many others too, and it re-energized the crowd. The less familiar and admittedly slightly dull "My Love (I'll Always Show)" lead into the metallic and excellent "The Way", which closed the main set.
"Sing-Along Song" was the first encore, and indeed, we all sang "Whooo-ooo-ooo-eee" with the band. Not necessarily one of my favourite songs but it couldn't really have a more apt title. The other encore (To Hell With The Devil) prompted even more singing along, and sure enough, if the Prince Of Darkness was lurking somewhere around, he must've ran back home with his tail between his legs...
Compared to the 2007 gig in Turku, Nosturi's set offered songs on a wider scale, but there's still room for improvement. The band's bad habit of neglecting "In God We Trust" album doesn't help, there are some excellent songs on it which deserve to be played live. I would've loved to hear the band's rendition of "Breaking The Law" too, which they have been playing on other dates of the tour. It would've surely raised the roof of Nosturi. The no-ballads approach didn't bother me that much, but Mrs. photographer did wonder why they left out "Honestly"... The Christian aspect of the show wasn't so upfront this time, except for the lyrics of course. The only "religious" moment of the show was in the end, when Michael Sweet lead us into a short prayer. I suppose that didn't bother anyone, not even the most hardened atheist...