I am still basking in the afterglow of the Stryper concert at The Stony Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Wednesday May the ninth. It was an incredible show! A few days prior to attending the show I posted on a Stryper Facebook fan group. I stated that I would love to see a Stryper set list that drew from the band’s last five studio albums. Those albums being Reborn (2005), Murder By Pride (2009), No More Hell To Pay (2013), Fallen (2015) and God Damn Evil (2018). As a fan I can dream, but I know that this would never happen. Many fans still want to hear songs from Stryper’s first five albums. It is not that I do not want to hear the earlier songs. But the last three albums are among the band’s absolute best work. Hearing a set list of all new songs would be mind blowing, but that is just a fantasy.
Back to reality, The Stone Pony show was my third time seeing Stryper live. Each time that I have seen the band it has been at The Stone Pony. There is an interesting fact about my experiences with Stryper in concert. Each time that I have seen the band it has been with a different bass player. I first saw them in 2003 after they had reunited and Tim Gaines was in place. The next time was in 2005 when the band was touring in support of the Reborn album and Tracy Ferrie was holding down bass duties. The most recent show was with the newest addition to the band, the instantly likable Perry Richardson.
What can you expect from a Stryper concert? Here are a few highlights:
The band is playing extremely loud and the music is heavy. They are truly putting on a heavy metal concert. Over the years some have classified Stryper as a hard rock band. The band that I saw and heard was clearly a metal band. It was great to hear the older songs played with heavier guitars.
The set list may not satisfy everyone, but really how could it. For a veteran band like Stryper it is a difficult balancing act to assemble a set list. Different fans want to hear different songs. The current set was full of surprises. I will say that it was the best set list of the three times that I have seen the band. Although they did not play songs from every album, there was a nice balance between the old and the new. Some may feel that the set leaned too heavily on newer material. I was extremely satisfied with the song choices and the mix of old and new. It truly was a career spanning set list.
The band seemed relaxed and full of a renewed spirit. Perry Richardson is a great addition to the band, he fits right in. There were a few occasions where Michael Sweet and Oz Fox told humorous and lighthearted stories. Overall the band appeared to be having fun together on stage. They looked great together and they played extremely well together.
The whole band was in fine form, but I want to highlight Michael Sweet and Oz Fox. Unless you see the band live there are two things that you may not be aware of. Oz Fox sings quite a bit live, at times this includes small sections of lead vocals. Michael Sweet is not only a talented rhythm guitarist, but the man shreds on lead guitar as well. The band is known for their twin guitar leads, but Michael Sweet has a lot of guitar solos on the Stryper albums. It is not until you see Stryper live that you realize how fortunate the band is to have these two highly talented guitarists and singers. Oz Fox does not get enough credit for his vocals and Michael Sweet does not get enough credit as a lead guitarist.
Michael Sweet can not hit all of the high notes anymore, but the man is an absolute pleasure to see and hear live. The strength of his voice is amazing. In a day and age when other singers from the 80’s metal scene are struggling vocally Michael Sweet is excelling.
Robert Sweet must be experienced live to fully appreciate his drumming skills and his showmanship.
Overall the band sounded excellent. The volume may have been high, but there was a clarity to the music. Each instrument and voice could be heard in the mix. This is not always the case at heavy metal shows. This is a testament to Stryper’s techs and sound team, major kudos to all involved. Live sound is a difficult thing to get right. I would have liked to have heard a bit more of Oz’s guitar and Perry’s bass, but overall it was a good mix. Like everything else you are never going to completely satisfy every fan’s taste or preferences.
If you are a Stryper fan and they are playing near you it would be a worthwhile investment. I drove about an hour and a half to get to The Stone Pony. It was well worth it for me. I spent the drive time wisely as I listened to portions of Reborn, Fallen and God Damn Evil. I look forward to seeing the band again in the not too distant future.
I have included the set list from the night below, for those who are interested. I generally do not want to know a band’s set list before I see a show, I like to be surprised in the moment. I will say that during the course of this show I was surprised and even shocked, in a good way, at some of the songs in the set.
Stryper is on an incredible run at this time, but nothing lasts forever. I can not say it enough, if Stryper is in your area go see them, you will not regret it.
Calling On You
More Than A Man
All For One
In God We Trust
Soldiers Under Command
God Damn Evil
Big Screen Lies
Can’t Live Without Your Love
Always There For You
Loud ‘N’ Clear
To Hell With The Devil