The Factory Theatre, Sydney, Australia.
Thursday 14th November 2019
Photo credit: Mick G Photography
Michael Sweet is no stranger to Australian shores having made half a dozen or so trips since Stryper’s first tour down under in 1987. Whilst the enduring metal band performed here as recently as 2018, Sweet’s current tour is his first as a solo acoustic artist.
Sweet spoke to the Guitar Speak Podcast from his home in Boston just before flying out. So, with a broad feel of what to expect I made the trip into Sydney’s Factory Theatre precinct.
Temtris, in duo acoustic mode with powerhouse vocalist Gen Rodda and ‘Fox’ Roberts on guitar, warmed up the room with stripped down versions of their original melodic metal and a cracking cover of WASP’s ‘Hold Onto My Heart’.
Sweet took to the stage unannounced, and after some relaxed greetings and guitar soloing over looped chords launched into Stryper’s 1990 tune “All For One”. With it’s anthemic sing-along chorus, this song set the scene for the next hour or so as Sweet led a capacity Factory Floor crowd through Stryper’s most accessible hits - including the MTV smashes “Calling On You” and “Always There For You”. A darkly reharmonised “Honestly” and swaggering “Soldiers Under Command” reimagined familiar material whilst die hard fans appreciated the Sweet and Lynch and earlier solo material. Sweet’s time with classic rockers Boston was acknowledged with “Peace of Mind” and “Amanda”. Bon Jovi's “Living on a Prayer” - curiously introduced by Sweet as ‘one of the best songs about prayer’ - was a crowd favourite.
Throughout the show Sweet warmly bantered with the crowd - often mid song - and as he shared on the podcast appeared to relish pacing his set on the fly. What did we learn? Stryper might be returning to Australia soon, Soldiers is his favourite Stryper record, Australian and Kiwi accents are hard to discern, even rock stars find Sydney house prices high, flying in a single engine Cessna with Boston’s Tom Scholtz at the helm was surreal and a shot of olive oil - really?! - is the ode to a dry throat.
Whatever the lubricant, Sweet’s voice is in absolute top form after decades of gigs and albums. A mix of genetics and wise stewardship found that familiar timbre and extraordinary vibrato wonderfully intact and as agile as ever. I should note that Sweet is still tackling his ‘80s material in its original key - a feat not shared by all of his contemporaries.
Although hinted at in the podcast interview, Sweet didn’t treat us with a sneak peak of his to be released signature Washburn acoustic, rather playing a sunburst RSD. This guitar withstood Sweet’s robust right hand attack without breaking a sweat. Indeed, Sweet didn’t bother to consult the headstock tuner for the duration of the show. Despite a well stocked pedal array, Sweet’s acoustic tone was largely unadorned. Some occasional chord progressions were looped via a TC Ditto looper and an EHX 22500 was kicked in with simple drum loops - ‘Robert in a box’ - for a few tunes.
Sweet’s set closed out with “To Hell With the Devil”, followed by an apt encore of “Sing Along Song” as he roused the room for one more chorus and locked in the good vibes shared by an enthusiastic crowd.
Sweet continues his tour in Brisbane and Melbourne.
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