Concert Review: Stryper at Showcase Live in Foxboro, MA
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 14 months since the yellow and black attack hit the stage in Foxboro, MA but the bumble boys of hard rock were back for another night of classic rock covers, Stryper staples and a few surprises along the way. Still on tour in support of 2011’s The Covering I thought the band seemed looser than they did last year, more comfortable with each other on stage and ultimately led to an even more enjoyable gig than last time around.
Vocalist/guitarist Michael Sweet was most impressive tonight and he has not lost any range, or skill as an almost 48 yr old front man bringing it each and every night and also rocked hard on several guitar leads as well. I didn’t catch a bible tonight (once again) but I was hit with a huge wave of excitement coming from drummer Robert Sweet still watching the clock as the “visual timekeeper” of the band and also by the solid harmonies of Oz Fox and Tim Gaines all night long. Original lineup, almost 30 years in the business, rocking harder than ever..no band with this much talent has gone further with their potentially fatal flaw of being “Christian” in the metal music business and quite frankly there will be none that ever will.
It was a great way to kick off Memorial Day weekend on a Friday night with the opening “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. It’s just the perfect opener..hell even Elvis opened with this one a few times! The first part of the set was dominated by older classics such as ‘Sing Along Song”, “Loud N Clear” and “The Rock That Makes Me Roll”. Both band and audience seem very comfortable enjoying these classics with much of the audience singing along (no pun intended) to each and every lyric. That is one of the bands strengths. Keeping their audience interacted and focused on the message without being preachy. I thought when the band played in Boston at the HOB in 2009 touring in support of Murder by Pride they lacked that interaction and were somewhat stiff and entirely focused on their playing. Still a solid performance but because the crowd may not have been as familiar with the newer material the show suffered. When you put out an album of rock classics you just covered..you are already at an advantage..your core audience already knows and loves the material so it’s almost as if it the songs were our own. Pure genius!
The middle part of the set was mix of To Hell With The Devil classics such as “Calling on You” & “Free” along with “Carry on Wayward Son” “Breaking the Law” and “Heaven and Hell”. These covers were amongst the most chanted tunes of the night not to mention the most air guitar! Michael has a gift of being able to grip the listener at his shows and I think the fact that he is able to closely match the vocal styles of both Rob Halford and Ronnie James Dio in two of the harder tracks while still making these songs his own with his unique style is a total credit to him as a performer. I was hoping they would mix it up a bit by maybe playing “The Trooper” or “On Fire” but maybe next time.
One of the biggest surprises of the night had to be “Makes Me Wanna Sing” from Soldiers Under Command. Admittedly on stage from Michael the track has not been played in quite some time but still not forgotten as it was my top tune of the night maybe because of the rarity of hearing it but I think more because of the conviction each band member had in performing it. Also not hearing ‘Honestly” in some time was also a treat. The best vocal performance of the night from Michael by far and the nights only true ballad. Finally “All for One” from “Against The Law” made that part of the set a trifecta of tunes that delighted the soul.
I said this last time but it still amazes me that they don’t play anything from 1988’s In God We Trust. I have heard a few different reasons for this but for the fans throwing in “Always There For You” or ‘The Writings on The Wall” would be a nice treat for the next tour boys!
For this observer seeing Stryper is like putting on your favorite pair of jeans. Comfort with style. Their message hasn’t changed from day one. It’s been redirected a bit, shown in a different form from time to time but I think the guys have an understanding of their roles and perform them well. I also think the extended break they took from each other (whether intentional or not) has brought them all full circle both personally and professionally. If they still can reach this soon to be 44 year old at his inner core of fandom and get my carcass out and to a gig and squeezed into a vintage “777” jersey and feeling like I’m back in high school then more power to them.
The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Sing Along Song
Loud N Clear
The Rock That Makes Me Roll
Calling On You
More Than A Man
Carry on Wayward Son
Breaking The Law
Heaven and Hell
All For One
Makes Me Wanna Sing
To Hell With the Devil
Soldiers Under Command