Stryper Whiskypick-of-the-monthWith Stryper there are certain expectations - and all of them are met on this live project, which rocks without mercy...

Stryper – Live at the Whisky
Artist: Stryper
Frontiers Records (Universal)
2 Discs: audio CD and DVD
Audio CD:16 / 75:09
DVD: 1 hour, 23 minutes

Stryper – Live at The Whisky is the definitive live performance package for the long-time and/or new Stryper fan. Recorded in the intimacy of The Whisky a Go Go on Sunset Boulevard, the band covers their 30 year legacy with familiar Stryper classics as well as a selection of songs from their recent studio project, the excellent No More Hell to Pay. Michael Sweet (guitar, lead vocals) fronts the original line-up which includes Oz Fox (guitar, vocals), Tim Gaines (bass, vocals), and of course The Visual Timekeeper himself – Robert Sweet (drums). The band is as tight and energetic as ever, looking healthy and rocking without mercy.

With Stryper there are certain expectations and all of them are met on this live project – the trademark twin guitar leads, the fiery solos, Michael's soaring vocals (and, yes – there are a couple of those insane screams), all 'sweetened' by memorable melody lines, great hooks, anthemic choruses and textured vocal harmony. Thankfully, we get this pop metal music in all its untarnished glory, as it happened, without any post-production fixes or pre-recorded vocal beds. The truth about Stryper is, they're excellent performers who have the audience in the proverbial palms of their hands, and with good reason - these guys still have what it takes to satisfy their core fan-base and to take the uninitiated along for the ride.

The CD is essentially the musical soundtrack to the live performance that was captured for the DVD. The tracks go directly from one song to the next for the most part, often propelled by a 'count-in' from Robert's hi-hats or a shouted title by Michael. At a generous 75 minutes-plus, this is one you might want to play to pump yourself up on that long commute or that next road trip – and if you're alone in your car you might find yourself singing along at the top of your lungs...

The DVD, directed by James Marshello and shot with multiple cameras, captures the band in full-flight with appropriate close-ups of guitar solos and excellent point-of-view shots from in front and in back of the action on stage. This being a small venue, we get to see the audience up close to the band and get a real feel for the crowd/band interaction. Without resorting to annoying MTV techniques, Marshello covers the concert in a way that will please those who want to not only get a sense of what it's like to see Stryper live, but musician-fans who will appreciate over-the-shoulder shots of Robert's drum kit and a good view of the band's interplay as they perform.

One difference between the DVD and the CD is that there's more between-song patter from Michael on the video, creating a more complete concert experience with more audience/performer interaction. We also get the occasional visual moment that would be meaningless on the audio disc (the tossing out of Bibles into the crowd), and non-musical moments like Michael's closing prayer – a fine way to close the video version of the concert but not necessary on the audio disc. There are also two video clips ("No More Hell to Pay" and "Sympathy") and an interview shot during a Nashville All Access session.

Without question, this is the next best thing to seeing Stryper in concert – and it's a great way to re-visit the live experience if you have seen the band. So, Stryper fans – turn down the lights, slip in the DVD, reinforce the sub-woofer, crank the volume and enjoy.

Bert Saraco