Mar 22, 2011

Stryper - Bourbon Street

By Bob Suehs

www.rocknrollexperience.com

STRYPER

March 22, 2011

Baltimore, MD

Growing up, atleast for me, heavy metal music was an escape from reality, it was music that I could relate to specifically because it was ok to be a freak in the realm of Metal, it was about topics that varied from Bondage & Casual Sex to the obvious overtones of The Devil; Heavy Metal music was what the misfits used to fit in with their own kind & it was a bonding experience for all the people who felt different...atleast that's how it felt for me as a young child and the band Stryper were the first "Christian" heavy metal band I'd ever heard about.

I remember reading the story of Motley Crue kicking them off their tour because they tossed out bibles at their shows & I thought it was the most retarded thing I'd ever heard, a metal band dressed like human bumble bee's preaching the word of God onstage?

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Stryper were the ultimate cliché for 80's Heavy Metal & it's obvious why they went away for an extended period when music changed...the spandex yellow & black, the big hair...they were 80's hair metal & that entire scene just died, but looking at what Stryper did when they played here in 2011 I actually understand their gimmick & it WAS a smart idea.

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Think about it, Motley Crue, Slayer & countless other acts utilized the pentagram, they openly used the term "Satanic" & had pagan markings all over their music & band photos; that was a selling point to the fans, it was meant to shock & piss people off and it did just that! Looking at it in retrospect, Stryper was EXACTLY like W.A.S.P. except Stryper was using God in their message & preaching positive messages as opposed to whatever it was that Blackie Lawless tried to sell us (raw meat perhaps?); Stryper got the church to back them & they were parents approved, not to mention they were on a major label, had MTV playing their sh*t & they had a good gimmick, I mean they technically were the ultimate rebels because they went against the grain of heavy metal, they played the same music that Judas Priest & Iron Maiden did, they just went against the grain & sang about God as opposed to the Devil!

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I always thought it was odd to toss out bibles because in theory you know that there were fans probably fighting over those things & tearing up the good book, not to mention I've always wondered what the church folks thought of Stryper putting their stickers on a bible & then tossing them out to the crowd...isn't that technically vandalizing a bible by putting a bands sticker on the front cover then hurling it into a crowd?

Anyways, just a few random ponderings before I start off this review....so, yes, I DID see a Stryper show on March 22, 2011 & to be totally honest with you, I was so retarded in my youth to swear off Stryper based on their personal religious views & in all honesty the band, on a musical level are one of the better metal bands left from that era!

In 2011 it's quite amazing that the 4 original members of Stryper are still out there & doing it just like they did back in the day!

The band has a new record on the shelves, it's an all covers record entitled "The Covering" (clever title, huh?) and it's actually that cover record that made me want to see this show in the first place because that cover record has some amazing selections on it & Michael Sweet can still hit those high notes...honestly he's got the best voice in heavy metal as far as I'm concerned now that Dio is no longer with us!

Stryper's stage set up was interesting...they had a drum kit that looked like a big freakin' role of "Do Not Cross" tape & what I mean by that is the drum kit was, big surprise, ALL striped in black & yellow & when Robert Sweet got behind the kit I'll admit it, the man is still pretty even at 51! Robert Sweet looks way younger than he is & he's still got that amazing Farrah Fawcett hair that MOST guys & girls could never quite pull off!

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The amp of choice for the band was Line 6 & they had stacks of amps on both sides of the stage while 3 1/2 stacks sat directly behind Michael Sweet & technically it covered the front of the drum set which is why Robert's bass drum was facing stage left...it was odd because the bass drum head was not visible to the bulk of the crowd depending on where you were standing, but the back lights shined all night long on Robert Sweet & the fan under him kept his hair flowing all night long! It was actually comical to see his hair still flowing when the band led the crowd in a prayer at the end of the night!

Oz Fox surprised me because I had no idea he sang lead vocals on quite a few songs & he's got a damn good voice! Oz is the chubbiest guy in the band & I remember as a kid we'd laugh at his name because it was as if he was the bastard child of Ozzy Osbourne & that drummer from Enuff Znuff, but after seeing Oz play I have alot o' respect for the man, he's a shredder & other than his really ugly yellow & black guitars, the man is talented!

That's another fact I honestly didn't know, Michael & Oz trade off guitar solo's alot & they are definitely good metal players that were schooled in Iron Maiden & Judas Priest styled music!

Ok, I'll address one thing....Michael Sweet is in great shape for his age, BUT, the spandex shirt he was wearing, for a man his age....I don't know, it looked like he had a-cup man boobs & other than his shirt he looks awesome, he's got a good head of hair still & he kinda looks like the brother of Billy Ray Cyrus circa 2011!

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Stryper came on just after 10 PM & they played a solid 90 minute set that covered all the bases, they did all the old classics & for me the highlights of the show were the covers they tossed in.

"Shout it Out Loud" by KISS was ok...that song is more like a pep rally, arena rock sing-a-long so it wasn't a tough song to cover for the band, but "Over the Mountain" by Ozzy was the song that made me go, "Wow!" because on the record they just released "Over the Mountain" is good but the solo sounds kinda hollow to me, atleast the recorded version in comparison to the original that Randy Rhoads played, BUT, when you see the band play "Over the Mountain" live....f**king amazing! Michael Sweet's vocals blow Ozzy's away & in an interesting twist, later in the set they perform a Black Sabbath song from the Dio era..."Heaven & Hell".

"Heaven & Hell" is the moment in the set where you hear the intro & think, wow, Stryper are doing THIS song...really?!? When you think about it though, Sabbath & Ozzy always had crosses all over their stage, Ozzy's always worn a cross necklace, the only difference between Stryper & Sabbath was the presentation!

Seeing Michael Sweet onstage at this show, he was wearing almost all black & the band toned down the heavy yellow stuff & they let go of the aqua-net, so in all honesty, seeing Stryper cover "Heaven & Hell" was the moment where, atleast for me, I thought, dude, this band IS really good, I totally missed out years ago based on my preconceived notions about the band!

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Michael nailed the Dio vocals & the entire crowd sang along to "Heaven & Hell" which was quite touching....I might mention too that the club was packed! The parking lot adjacent to the club was filled to capacity & in 2011 Stryper has a large fanbase in the Maryland area for sure!

Crowd wise, there was mostly older people there but at the same time there were quite a few kiddies there as well who were between 16 - 19, definitely underaged based on the lack of 21+ bracelet & they were bobbing their heads, singing along & enjoying the show.

It's funny, I read an interview with Oz Fox a few years back & he admitted that when Stryper ended he had to get a "real" job & he was a paperboy, or so he stated, & as Oz was tossing out guitar pics left & right my first thought was, I wonder if he used to pretend the newspapers were guitar pics as he tossed them out?

I saw a stack of mini bibles on each amp onstage & in the middle of the set they tossed out the bibles; honestly that was kinda what I wanted to see & I was bummed when I saw one of the mini bibles up close & they were basically dollar store bibles with a Stryper sticker stuck on the front.

After the show I heard one of Stryper's roadies making a comment about my attire for the night; I wore a Danzig shirt kinda as a joke because Danzig is so anti-religious & it was more comical than wearing a Slayer shirt because Tom Araya is a Christian, so for this night I sported a Danzig shirt & honestly, the crowd wasn't overtly religious, they were cool, mellow & at the end of the night when Michael led the crowd in a prayer I saw a mix of the crowd with tilted heads while the others looked at the band...Tim Gaines looked at the crowd a few times while Michael led the crowd in prayer & overall my first Stryper show was an absolute blast!

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I'd highly advise ANY fans of metal music to put aside what the band did in the 80's, my best analogy for Stryper is like this: Stryper & Cinderella (the 80's hair metal band) both fall into the category of bands who's image killed their chances for being taken seriously. What I mean by that is, Tom Keifer WAS one of the best singers & song writers from that era & Cinderella SHOULD have been the next Aerosmith, but the bands over the top image kinda killed their chances for being taken seriously...that same thing happened to Stryper...Stryper's bumble bee costumes & poofy hair were one thing, but their intense religious views & the fact that they tried to push it on people, that's what made myself & many others just ignore Stryper & it's sad because musically, Stryper are an amazing metal band! There's only a handful o' bands that could surpass their image, Guns N Roses, Motley Crue & Bret Michaels were lucky in that respect.

It's also comical to note that on the same stage that Stryper led the crowd in prayer & praised God, on that same stage I witnessed just a week prior the Genitorturers who had post-op Trannies onstage & there were 2 girls going down on each other directly infront of that very same stage!

Totally random comment: American Idol Judge Randy Jackson played bass on "Against the Law" for Stryper....betcha didn't know that!