Stryper - The Coach House - August 15, 2013
"It's mind boggling that we've been around for 30 years," said Stryper front man Michael Sweet to a crowd of several hundred fans at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, during an intimate all acoustic performance with his band mate, guitarist Oz Fox. The guitar duo stripped down their 80s glam metal sound, down to the raw basics, two clean guitars and two microphones. "We're in our 50s, but we made it!" said Fox in a very enthusiastic voice. "And we don't like a year over 30," joked Sweet.
The band wanted to set the tone of the night just before the two sat down and began to play. Sweet asked out loud, "You know that this is NOT Stryper. It's Michael Sweet and Oz Fox playing acoustic Stryper songs."
This was not a night of head banging, even though it was technically a performance of 'heavy metal' songs. Fans stayed in their seats for the entire night, which gave the venue the vibe of a VH1 Unplugged episode.
The guitars were crystal clear, and each and every note, riff and harmony was absorbed throughout the club. With a set that lasted just over an hour, Sweet and Fox revisited the myriad of Stryper classics in a somewhat chronological order, and took time to recall memories and thoughts with fans. Fan favorites included "Honestly," a song that Sweet said changed Stryper from a club band to an arena band in the mid 80s, "Calling On You," In God We Trust," and "Soldiers Under Command," among many others, which did incite some air guitaring and mild head banging by several inebriated fans.
The songs were very epic, and although '80s glam or hair metal might not be everyone's musical cup of tea, one had to recognize and appreciate the brilliant song writing structure, and virtuoso acoustic guitar style of Fox and Sweet. These giant metal songs translated perfectly into the Coach House as powerful-yet-mellow tunes about devotion, spirituality and faith. Unfortunately, the band did not perform an acoustic rendition of their powerful tune, "To Hell With the Devil."
Sweet's vocals were timeless, and sounded very crisp, sharp and beautiful; down to the last notes and echoes, which were provided by Fox, who also did back up singing. The crowd loved it, and even though it was a smaller, dinner type crowd, cheers and applause roared after each song. The band did not have set list, but instead just improvised and played whatever they felt was comfortable. Many fans and friends of the guitarists, who were with the band from day one, were in the crowd, as Fox kept giving personal shout outs. "Don't worry, to all of you who don't know us personally," said Sweet with a smile. "After the show we promise to hang out, and if you buy any piece of merch we will sign it," he said.
For a band that has made a name for itself with a thirty year career, Stryper have gained a following world wide with an admittedly, yet not forceful or overt Christian message. But from a band that has a fan base of people into 80s metal, ballads and Christian Rock, Stryper is anything but Bible thumpers. The only indirection mention of Jesus (Lord) was at the conclusion of the show.
See also: Top 10 Glam Metal Bands of All Time
"We're still around and still making new music, we have a new album called 'No More Hell To Pay,' out in the states in November," said Sweet just after the set was over. "We've always gone against the grain and will continue to do so. We're just hearing spreading the word of the Lord through rock and metal music."