Gig Review: STRYPER @ Max Watt's Melbourne

Never has the Bible quote, Isaiah 53:15 (and by his wounds we are healed) that adorns the Stryper logo been more relevant in the rich 35 year history of the band, as it were at Max Watts last night, as Stryper played their first show in Australia in 8 years, capping off an emotional week for the band and its army of fans following the on-stage seizure suffered by founding member and lead guitarist, Oz Fox earlier in the week.

Despite the shocking news that Fox faces lengthy surgeries to remove two brain tumours discovered during a subsequent MRI , the remaining three members of Stryper were determined to honour their long time friend and delivered a set that showed why they remain one of the few outfits to ever make the jump from the uber-niche Christian hair metal market to the mainstream and certainly did Fox proud in the process.

A typically diverse crowd of Melbourne's hard rock community filled Max Watts to a surprising capacity with lines down Swanston st early in the night to stake a good spot. As one yellow and black attack concluded their night just minutes away at the MCG, the international variety took the stage and showed their less experienced counterparts a thing or two and showed just how amazing the Max Watts sound system can be. “Yahweh" opened proceedings and immediately set the tone of the night; frontman Michael Sweet taking over lead guitarist duties from Fox, and clearly relished the chance to show off some fantastic licks and of course, a voice that still delivers.

What ensued over the next 90 minutes could be best described as a cross between the loudest of Planetshakers conferences and the headiest of Melbourne's rock scene prepared to overlook the worship and religious overtones in the name of some fantastic rock tracks that enticed even the most sacrilegious of punters to denounce Satan along with the Sweet brothers and former Firehouse guitarist, Perry Richardson.

The change in lineup necessitated tinkering in the Stryper setlist which had become quite routine since their return to touring. The surprise inclusion of ballad “Honestly" from the To Hell With The Devil album read the room perfectly as the baby boomer headbanging seamlessly transitioned to a pre-soccer crowd environment. Possibly happy to take a breather, fans linked arms and swayed to and fro to the melody that most fans can be forgiven for forgetting was Stryper's only Top 40 chart entry.

A new peak was achieved last night in “Bands Giving Away Wacky Memorabilia". I've seen Rod Stewart kick inflatable beach balls emblazoned with his initials into the crowd. You can purchase weed grinders bearing your favourite band's motif, and I believe housebricks from Eminem's childhood home retailed for $300 a pop. But at routine intervals last night, lucky punters were able to get their hands on their very own personal copy of The Good Book customized with the Stryper decal. Fans not only enthusiastically attempted to get the attention of band members throwing them into the crowd but in same cases waved around their original copies that had seen some decades of prayer session.

As the Stryper anthem “To Hell With The Devil" rang out to send fans home happy, money was donated by many on the way out to assist with costs for Oz Fox's pending ordeal and can still be found online here

While the $85 price tag can reasonably be off putting to younger punters, and it was a testing night for local scene staple, White Widdow in the opening act slot, I'd strongly urge punters to overlook the themes of the set list and enjoy a classic heavy rock act still delivering at full capacity. They will not disappoint.

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