It’s a Sunday October evening and your normally London-ensconced correspondent is standing in the House Of Blues in Chicago.
Why the Windy City? That’s a question my muscles are screaming at me every time I move – having run, jogged and then stuttered through 26.2 miles earlier in the day.
Still, by doing the Chicago Marathon, not only have I obviated the need for a bus tour of the city, but I have been given the opportunity to see a band I never thought I’d have the pleasure of witnessing live. And tonight, it really is a pleasure to see Stryper.
Now, I know that to many people such sentiments are enough to raise a howl of disbelieving laughter. However, aside from drummer Robert Sweet’s Dynasty hairdo there really is nothing that needs apologising for here.
Evidently, a packed house agrees and, if they are understandably slightly subdued at Stryper’s opening gambit of Open Your Eyes and Make You Mine (both taken from recent comeback album, Reborn), then there’s no holding back on their fervour once frontman Michael Sweet makes it clear the band will be going chronologically through some classics, while sprinkling in newer numbers.
In this context, it’s reassuring for the reformed Stryper (and the band confirm that they are properly “back together”) that the likes of Passion and Live Again sit comfortably alongside established ‘oldies’ such as Loud ‘N’ Clear, The Rock That Makes Me Roll, Calling On You and surprise inclusion, All For One.
Furthermore, tonight serves as a reminder that there’s no way a band with a potentially fatal commercial disability (they’re Christians) could ever have reached multi-platinum status without: a) having monumentally memorable songs; and b) being darn (or is that damn) good musicians.
Indeed, all members of the band display breathtaking musical virtuosity (perhaps none more so than Michael Sweet in his vocal range), while the hyperactive antics of Robert Sweet behind the drumkit and the dual guitaring of Michael Sweet and Oz Fox demonstrate that you can take the band out of (its home turf of) Hollywood but you can’t take Hollywood out of the band.
Having said that, despite a full-throttled, truly heavy metal finale of The Way, To Hell With The Devil and Soliders Under Command, this gig has the most un-showbiz ending you could imagine – the band spending a few minutes praying for the audience to be blessed.
But then, given that Marilyn Manson rips up Bibles on stage, Slipknot flash “666″ in neon lights and millions cheer like sheep, perhaps this is the most radical, ‘rebellious’, rock ‘n’ roll thing to do. Amen to that.