By Michael Marotta
Boston Herald

With sparked lighters an unspoken taboo at last night's Phoenix Rising benefit concert for the survivors of the 2003 Station nightclub fire, many in the audience relied on a different source of light to show unity and inspiration: the glow of their cell phones.

Brandon Reid and Gary Hoey first convinced the 5,400-strong at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence to raise their arms and shine their LED lights, but it was passionate performances that made it a rock-fueled night to remember.

"Every one of those people at The Station were rockers, and they want to rock," host and Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider told the crowd. "So we're gonna rock!"

More than three dozen performers came together to raise money for The Station Family Fund, which distributes funds to victims and survivors of The Station nightclub fire that claimed 100 lives and severely injured two hundred others five years ago. The fire was caused when pyrotechnics during a Great White concert engulfed the West Warwick club.

Guitar virtuoso Hoey's riff-filled rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner" established the rock vibe early, letting fans know it was cool to rock out on this night of remembrance.

Snider and his motormouth kept things moving during the four-hour concert with short, efficient cheerleading lectures between performances and prerecorded videos of testimonials from Station survivors and affected musicians.

The most rousing performance of the night surprisingly came from '80s Christian rock band Stryper, joined onstage by Boston's Tom Scholz and Gary Pihl. Stryper singer Michael Sweet seems so much at home belting out Boston classics, including the 1976 seminal hit "Peace of Mind," that a future collaboration seems inevitable.

Aaron Lewis, a Springfield native, captivated the audience with acoustic versions of "It's Been a While," which had everyone in the arena singing along, and a cover of Bob Seger's "Turn the Page."

And while the "Country Mafia," featuring Big & Rich's John Rich, Gretchen Wilson and Dierks Bentley, drew loud applause and staunch appreciation for trekking up from Nashville, it was old-school rock 'n' roll that captured the essence of the evening. Mr. Big's Eric Martin nailed crowd-pleaser "To Be with You," and Tesla's "Love Song" had people dancing in the aisles. Even Winger's quick metal set brought the rock and kept the vibe going in the audience, made up mostly of hard rock fans and the occasional country hat.

As Snider helped close out the night by singing rock anthem "We're Not Gonna Take It," it was clear a message had been sent, and one that should translate on television screens when VH1 broadcasts concert highlights on Easter Sunday.

"Tonight's the night we let the world know the victims of the Station nightclub fire will not be forgotten," Snider said.

Five years after the tragedy, he was spot on.