[LIVE REVIEW] Stryper – Max Watts, Melbourne 17/08/2018

Hold on to your bibles, the yellow and black attack are back, and they mean business. It has been a very long eight years since we have seen them grace our shores, but they have made their return and the fans couldn’t be happier. It was a sold out show last night at Max Watts Melbourne, the fans were hungry for it, the unending line on Swanston Walk a testament to the numbers waiting to get in. Add to this the merch being almost sold out by 8.30 with only small and medium shirts on offer really tells the tale of how keen the punters were.

It was an awesome night for supports acts, with Melbourne based Catalano breaking the ice. They had a huge crowd to get warmed up, the early turn out was incredible. The vibe was Cinderella/L.A. Guns/G ‘n’ R’s all wrapped into one, singer Roxxi Catalano channelling his inner hair metal with ease. They gave us a thirty minute set, that I wish was longer, its not often support acts grab me so strongly, but these guys were bloody fantastic. Extremely engaging with the crowd, heads nodding in approvals as they played out their set. I believe it is only their fourth live gig in Australia, which leaves me gobsmacked, they were a well-polished, cohesive unit on stage seemingly with many years under their belts. Definitely one to hunt down live, you will not be disappointed.

It seems Melbourne can do no wrong with music as White Widdow took to the stage. We really were spoilt with the level of support for this show, another stellar band for our enjoyment. Opening with Cry Wolf, White Widdow were off and running, giving us 30 minutes packed with energy and really punchy music. Singer Jules Millis was a brilliant front man, working the stage and the crowd with ease. If I had to describe him, think of Jani Lane with black hair, he even took a trip to sing from the pit and high five the punters. They definitely had some fans in their own right, many singing along knowing all the words. They have a fabulous hard rock sound and gave an awesome performance with the crowd clapping along soaking up all the goodness of the Melbourne music scene. White Widdow are UK bound in October to play at Rockingham 2018 so make sure you get out and see them before then! 

The heavy metal tunes were pumping from the speakers, the fans were singing along getting their voices warmed up, could any compete with Michael Sweet? definitely not, but we all like to think we could. As the lights dimmed with only Robert Sweet’s drum kit lit up the tension as palpable, we have been waiting for what seems a lifetime to have Stryper back in Australia, and we were more than ready for them to hit the stage. With a very unfortunate turn of events, lead guitarist Oz Fox was struck down with a serious illness that prevented him from making the tour. We are all keeping him in our thoughts and prayers wishing for a speedy recovery, but with his blessing the boys still made the long trek to perform as a trio. A first for the band so we should feel extremely privileged to have witnessed this. Michael took to the stage to explain the situation with Oz, not a normal start to a show but we were all grateful for the update. Now on with the show, touring off the back of the insane new album God Damn Evil, Stryper took to the stage opening with the sensational Yahweh, the fans erupted, it was clear they had brought their singing voices and weren’t afraid to use them. The Valley from the new album literally ripped the venue a new one, it was loud, it was heavy, and it was pretty bloody awesome. Calling on You and Free were up next, the boys smashing out the songs with gusto, and while we all felt a missing link with Oz not on stage the music suffered no loss, Michael picking up slack with ease. His shredding skills exemplary, I knew he was a great guitarist, but he literally blew me away with his solos, absolutely amazing from start to finish. He did mention they were all pretty jet lagged but from where I was standing it didn’t seem to be an issue. First class all the way, the complete professionals as they moved into All For One, Robert’s kit sounding sensational, he played like a halo wearing demon, smashing the skins with unabandoned joy, clearly loving every minute. Styper bibles were at the ready, randomly thrown out to the crowd over the course of the evening. While one grazed my hand, sadly I didn’t get the coveted keepsake, maybe next time, as Michael promised they would bring Oz back on his return to health.

Revelation and then In God We Trust saw the crowd taking over the vocals, not that it was necessary, Michael has the voice of any angel, still as fresh as back in 1983 at the bands inception. We were all so invested in this show, it drew you in from the get go, almost hypnotic in its delivery.  It was an extremely well-behaved crowd, everyone had their own space, all content to watch from their spot. No pushing and shoving, just how a gig should be, and while it was a mature based crowd there were some younger folk, my son included, and when Michael pointed at him and said ‘you weren’t even born when we made this song’ we all had a laugh, then it made me realise just how old I am! Honestly saw a great sing-a-long then backed up by Sorry which blew us all away, what a killer song, I’m so glad it made it on the hit filled setlist. Loving You and the title track from the latest release God Damn Evil put us in a spin, could this night really get any better. Lady saw Michael take it down a notch, just a guy and his guitar, a lovely serenade which gave us all a breather before we hit the home stretch.

Perry Richardson was magnificent, dazzling us all night, his smile as wide as the stage, loving every minute. The fans loved right back as Always There For You and the show stealer Soldiers Under Command rang out, the punters losing their minds as this epic song played out. Michael so very grateful to the fans, constantly thanking us, his appreciation overwhelming. As the night drew to its conclusion, we were hopeful for just one more song and through the higher powers our prayers were answered with not one but two, To Hell With The Devil and Sing-Along Song. This took the crowd to celestial heights, we were drained nothing left in the tank but we screamed out hearts out as they boys came to the forefront giving them the applause they so deserved. Robert threw not drumsticks but his stack of bibles to the hungry crowd, and still they remained elusive to me. Next time I will have my bible catching hand on point! With the night being filmed, we then took the time to record a message for Oz, ‘Hi Oz, we love you’ we hope it brightens his day and we see him back on the stage again soon. Final waves and thanks were given, and we were left to recover from a night of hot sweaty, godly rock, that can only be described as angelic.

Stryper were the preachers and we were their congregation, spellbound by their words, captivated by their songs, we were disciples schooled in the church of heavy metal, and didn’t we love it!

Review Contributed by Cassandra Hale

Gallery by Jose Sanchez