Hundreds of people, young and old, packed Anaheim’s House of Blues last Saturday night, proving that Stryper has some of the most enthusiastic and loyal fans in the world of rock. Celebrating their forthcoming album, Fallen, the band was playing on their home turf, California’s Orange County, where they gained prominence in the early ’80s.
After a ceremonious introduction courtesy of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Stryper kicked off their set with “Sing-Along Song,” hooking into the audience as they sang “This song’s for you to sing along!” in an engaging three-part harmony. The original lineup — Michael Sweet (vocals, guitars), brother Robert Sweet (drums), Oz Fox (guitar, backing vocals) and Tim Gaines (bass, backing vocals) — played a healthy set of songs, old and new, with an exuberance defying a band in its 32nd year. Frontman Michael Sweet even alluded to those older years, speaking for a few minutes about circa 1984 when the band looked like bumble bees, all dressed in yellow and black. Viewed as underdogs back then because of their faith-based music, Sweet expressed appreciation to the fans as he reflected on a long and storied career.
The Michael Sweet/Oz Fox guitar duo heated up the room with vicious licks and jaw-dropping solos. “All for One” was an example that showed the band’s tight, intuitive union. Drummer Robert Sweet’s blond mane sliced through the air while whaling on the skins during a cover of Kansas’s “Carry on Wayward Son.” The band also played KISS’s “Shout it Loud,” another ’70s rock classic featured on The Covering. A killer version of Black Sabbath’s “After Forever” from the upcoming album Fallen followed.
Michael Sweet took to the microphone to not only announce songs and make small talk, but he even did a funny Elvis impression, as well as unapologetically expressed, “The more Christians are persecuted, it builds a fire in us.” He said throughout Stryper’s career it’s been about the rock and roll, stressing that the band’s message is what matters.
By the last third of the set, the band had really tightened-up. “Marching Into Battle,” a song from 2013’s No More to Hell to Pay, shook the house with Gaines’ bass and Sweet’s drums. “Honestly” was the one ballad in the set, yet it might have better been scratched from the list, as it broke the show’s continuity. If the room was anticipating a trademark Michael Sweet scream, it was delivered con gusto at the end of “The Way.” “Soldiers Under Command” and “To Hell with the Devil” closed the show, and despite the lull through the ballad, it was clear the Yellow and Black Attack delivered.