Words: Nick Barrett
Photos: Dylan Martin
Last night, multi-platinum album selling Christian metal icons Stryper performed for the first time ever as a three-piece, following Oz Fox’s withdrawal from the Australian leg of the God Damn Evil Tour due to health complications. The show was at a nearly (maybe even totally) sold-out Max Watts, in the heart of Melbourne, Australia, and featured support performances by Catalano and White Widow.
Opening the bill was Melbourne-bred hard-rock band Catalano, who performed an overall killer set of sleazy guitar-rock glory in the vein of a young Skid Row or Guns n Roses, being almost excessively reminiscent of the 1980’s LA scene. The riff-centric band performed their fourth gig ever with grace, belting out a set of anthematic originals, including their newest single, “Wildfire”.
White Widow were the second band, who performed a variety of synth-rock originals, sounding as what can only be described as the in-between of Europe and Van Halen, to the extent that the guitarist even rocked an EVH 5150 amplifier. Though somewhat leaning towards the cheesy side (as far as the song-writing was concerned), the band performed a set that displayed a great level of talent, with strong vocal harmonies aplenty.
Beginning with an incredibly heart-felt and sincere nod to Oz Fox, Stryper launched into a hard-hitting and appropriately bass-heavy setlist with “Yahweh” from Stryper’s 2015 album ‘Fallen’. Though Oz’s presence was certainly missed, with the solo harmonies (that are almost synonymous with Stryper) being absent, Michael Sweet, Robert Sweet and Perry Richardson decimated the insane setlist that covered material from as far back as 1984’s “The Yellow and Black Attack” and 1986’s “To Hell with The Devil”, all the way through to 2018’s “God Damn Evil”. Michael Sweet’s operatic, belting vocals are not showing their age by any means, with many of his vocal performances sounding the exact same way as they appear on the original albums. Robert Sweet offers some of the best drumming to have graced the genre, and Perry Richardson’s performance as a solo five-string rhythm section (due to Michael having to hold down the leads) is an achievement in itself, even for a bassist as masterful as he is.
The band’s performances reflected an incredible amount of skill and an insane level of virtuosity, with each member of the band proving as to why Stryper is one of the most well-regarded and beloved bands of the 1980s, as well as why they’re still around 34 years after their debut album was released. After powering through the first 14 songs of the epic 15-song setlist (which included such hits as ‘Honestly’, ‘Calling on You’ and ‘Soldiers Under Command’) the band paid even more respect to Oz Fox, engaging with the audience by filming the crowd unanimously shouting, ‘Hello Oz, we love you!’, before throwing out more Stryper-branded Bibles and concluding their set with “To Hell with the Devil”.
Though it is incredibly unfortunate that Oz Fox could not be touring with Stryper for their 2018 round of Australia, the band certainly held their own as a three-piece, with Michael, Robert and Perry carrying the black and yellow banner with pride while Oz recovers for future tours, hopefully including another lap of the country in the near future (as teased by Michael during the latter-half of the band’s set).
The Australian leg of the God Damn Evil Tour comes courtesy of Silverback Touring, who are pushing hard to bring out American rock and metal bands, having brought out Stryper and soon bringing out Paradise Kitty (an all-female tribute to Guns n Roses) in September, Skid Row in October and Fozzy in November. Stryper’s gig at Max Watts in Melbourne is the first of a four-show tour across the country, which will conclude at Brisbane’s Triffid on Tuesday the 21st of August. Though down a member, Stryper are certainly not a band to be missed.
Get your tickets to see Stryper on the God Damn Evil Tour HERE!