Monday, November 14, 2016

Concert Review and Photos: Stryper at the Ready Room in St. Louis November 8, 2016 - Photos and words by Danny Nichols

Guitarist and vocalist Michael Sweet
Thirty years ago Stryper were three albums into a career of producing glam metal with a considerably different ideological slant than their Sunset Strip peers. Their first two albums The Yellow and Black Attack and Soldiers Under Command had sold extremely well.  Clearly there was a market of metal fans who loved the power chords, searing guitar solos and the thundering crack of a snare drum, but weren’t interested in hearing songs about the devil or hedonism.  There was a place for Christianity in the hallowed halls of metal. Still, they had not really achieved mainstream success until their legions of devoted fans latched onto their third album To Hell With The Devil and flooded MTV with demands it be put into heavy rotation.   
Guitarist Oz Fox
This was a band made for MTV with their vibrant yellow and black stripped costumes, choreographed stage antics and a bombastic drummer who plays with his elevated kit sideways, so the audience can appreciate his every move.  The third album went double platinum.  The 2016 tour is a 30th anniversary celebration of Stryper at their loftiest heights.  The album was played in its entirety in order.  The old 1986 stage costumes were dusted off and trotted out.  Robert Sweet pointed his drums stage right and gave us 110% again.
Make no mistake, Stryper is much more than a collection of gimmicks.  These guys are incredible musicians. Michael Sweet and Oz Fox’s riffs and solos are nothing short of jaw dropping.  Tim Gaines’ bass lines are incredibly complex, a testament to his jazz influence, and gloriously loud in the mix.   Michael Sweet noted from the stage it was harder to find skin tight jeans in 2016 than it was in 1986, and therefore, it is harder to hit the high notes now than thirty years ago.  Still, I found Sweet’s voice to be every bit as range capable as it ever was.
Bassist Tim Gaines
Stryper is clear about their Christian beliefs, and this is well represented lyrically in their songs, but it is not a focal point of the show, and certainly doesn’t get in the way of the music.   Sure, guitarist Oz Fox held up a Got Jesus?  T-shirt someone in the audience handed him, and there were several Stryper bibles tossed into the crowd, but in the end it was about the music.  The two shows I saw prior to Stryper were the diabolical themed bands Slayer and Ghost.  (I wonder if I am the only person to have seen Slayer, Ghost and Stryper in succession. Probably not, but maybe.)  I was able to thoroughly enjoy both of those shows without being a devil worshipper.  
Drummer Robert Sweet
Similarly, I would submit one need not be a Christian to equally enjoy every note of a Stryper show.  A great song is a great song whether it is about hanging out with the devil or kicking his ass.  Stryper rocked every bit as much as Slayer, and as metalhead, I have no shame in saying so.
Michael Sweet
Stryper played two sets.  As noted above, the first set was the entirety of To Hell With The Devil.  After a brief interlude, they returned to the stage with a set comprised of hits from their other albums, to include fan requests. Someone even called for a Boston song referencing Sweet’s four years fronting that band. This particular request went unheeded.  

Oz Foz
The second set also included a few covers.  It may have surprised some for a Christian band to cover songs by Black Sabbath and Kiss.  However, as Sweet noted, with all due respect to bands such as DC Talk and Petra, they were actually influenced by the "good stuff".  Is it okay to fist pump with metal horns at a Christian metal show?  I am not sure, but if you can listen to a Dio penned tune with out raising the metal salute, you have more discipline than me.  
Tim Gaines
A large video board positioned along the side of the stage encouraged fans to use their cell phones during the intermission to vote for which song they wanted played as an encore.  St. Louis chose "Loud and Clear", but Stryper was on a roll and wanted to play for longer than the promised one encore. A bonus cover of Van Halen's "Ain't Talkin Bout Love" and Stryper classic "Makes Me Wanna Sing" were added.  I like the idea of a variable set list, as it makes the audience feel as though they are getting a unique show.
Robert Sweet
At one point between songs Michael Sweet opined 1986 was music's greatest year.  The crowd roared in agreement.  I roared in agreement.  As Sweet declared from the stage, it was the year when every band had a great guitarist and a great singer.  The members of Stryper are right to be included in these ranks.  The guitar work was brilliant, absolute, full on shredding.

We also learned, besides  their faith, what else inspires Stryper to these lofty heights of performance.  Turns out it is Paul Stanley.  Michael Sweet revealed to the audience a photo of the KISS frontman the band keeps on stage with the acronym W.W.P.S.D. ?? (What Would Paul Stanley Do) written across the top and DANCE!! along the bottom.  Stryper certainly has taken a page from the KISS book of showmanship and aren't afraid to admit it.
Sweet reveals the band's secret inspiration, while in the background Oz grabs a stack of bibles.
Stryper delivered an energetic and emphatic performance which transported the audience back to their mid-Eighties heyday.  They show no signs of slowing down.  The band even jokingly asked the crowd how many would commit to seeing them again another 30 years down the road, should To Hell With The Devil warrant a 60th anniversary tour.  The Rolling Stones are fast approaching 60 years on the stage, so why not Stryper.  If they do come back in 2046, or any year in-between, I hope I am able to attend. 
Sweet and Fox
Sweet and Fox
The Sweet Brothers
Michael Sweet 
Robert Sweet
Michael Sweet


  1. I was 14 when introduced to Stryper. I would agree. These guys were just as instrumental to me as Crue or Winger (yep...I said Winger). These guys are true musicians. they have the "chops" to prove it.

  2. i Remember How The Lord Led Me To You Stryper What A Blessing That Was Sent to Me It's Always On My Mind.