Whenever California’s very own heavy metal unit Stryper headlines the House of Blues in Anaheim, a full house of dedicated listeners follow. This is for good reason: the group’s characteristic Yellow and Black Attack wardrobe may now be hanging in the attic, but the message and sound remains very much alive.
Warming up the crowd would be Gabbie Rae and her self-titled supporting lineup. Considering Rae has cited Stryper lead vocalist and guitarist Michael Sweet as one of her musical inspirations, you could say this pairing was only fitting. The seventeen year old singer has high energy and a remarkable vocal range, both of which were prominently displayed through strong renditions of Slash’s “World on Fire” and Queensryche’s “Queen of the Reich.”
Although the members of Stryper have often contested the “Christian Metal” label that has been placed on their albums over the years, there’s no denying that Stryper remains at the forefront of that genre. An even more remarkable accomplishment is that Stryper remains one of the few bands from the 1980s that still can tolerate their original lineup long enough for the album/tour cycle that Stryper has recently maintained.
The House of Blues Anaheim had fans packed up to the rafters, gathering their anticipation for the opening anthem “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” off of the ‘Soldiers Under Command’ album. As the curtain opens, Michael Sweet, guitarist Oz Fox, bassist Timothy Gaines and drummer Robert Sweet – facing sideways, as to let the audience admire his stick work – walk out and open the set with “Sing-A-Long Song.”
Although the only physical resemblance to the Yellow and Black Attack could be spotted on their guitars, which were later alluded as looking like “bumblebees” during the set, the Stryper sound was prominent and compelling. Frontman Michael Sweet demonstrated strong interaction with the crowd, even going as far as to hear what the fans would like to hear them play.
Of course, Stryper already came prepared with virtually every song the casual fan would like to hear from their live shows. Hits from albums old and new surfaced over the length of the set, ranging from “Calling on You” and the fan favorite “Honestly,” to the high octane cover of Black Sabbath’s “After Forever” that appears on the upcoming Stryper album ‘Fallen’ on October 16.
While tossing out guitar picks, Michael Sweet jokes that he hopes he grabbed the right bag and that those aren’t marked Boston. That tenure with another iconic hard rock group is long gone, yet remains ingrained in the minds of many advocate fans as a memorable collaboration. Stryper would turn towards other veteran classics during their Anaheim show, including stellar covers of “Shout It Out Loud” by KISS and Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son.”
The heavy metal was in plentiful supply, and yet Stryper asserted that ultimately “the message is what matters.” As Sweet would tell his admiring crowd, “You walk out of here believing in God you have everything. You walk out of here believing in Stryper you have nothing.” It was evident from the fans reaction that they still draw towards what Stryper represents, and that left many walking out of the venue expressing that was one of the strongest performances they’ve witnessed from Stryper in recent memory.