Twisted Sister - Live at Wacken: The Reunion CD & DVD
2010 Eagle Rock Entertainment / Rebellion Entertainment
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Hard to believe it's been a solid decade since Twisted Sister officially reformed, as in Mark "The Animal" Mendoza returning to the fold with Dee Snider, AJ Pero, Jay Jay French and Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda. While the core fivesome did lay their marks upon the 1998 Twisted tune "Heroes Are Hard to Find" for Dee Snider's splat fiesta Strangeland, the recording of that tune was done through separate sessions where the players came and went without really seeing each other.
By now, everyone knows the story behind Twisted Sister's crippling breakup in 1987. The mud has been flung and wiped away. Fences have been long mended and the makeup replaced the mud. The price has been paid and the sacrifices have been made and really, the only drawback to Twisted Sister's presence in the 2000's is a lack of a brand new studio album to comemmorate this long-term reunion.
Sure, the 25th anniversary edition of Stay Hungry was a superb event, considering Twisted Sister gave their fans an entire disc worth of previously-unreleased material from the original sessions, some demo tracks and "30," a rocking new track recorded specifically for the occasion. They decked the halls with A Twisted Christmas in 2006 and they slung out a redux of their best-known album, redubbed as Still Hungry in 2004. Still, it's been since 1987's Love is for Suckers, an album we've come to learn was a Dee Snider solo project-turned-Twisted record, that a fresh Twisted Sister LP has hit us.
Honestly, that's the only sour moment in reflection while watching Live at Wacken: The Reunion, a shot-for-posterity documentation of five men coming together from the ashes of their own wake following an inexplicably silent split-up in '87. This event transcends the group themselves, even if Twisted rises up to the limit as headliners of the 2003 Wacken Open Air Festival. At this point, they'd headlined a few European festivals, fielded some club dates and performed for the USO in Korea.
Following such a drastic layoff and suddenly whisked back into the limelight, Twisted Sister would expectedly have a lot of rust in 2003, but this is hardly the case. The agitation making Dee Snider the pissed-off hellion leading Twisted through the seventies and early eighties yields to Mr. Showman. He's money in this set, recreating most of Twisted's tunes to-the-note. Occasional deviation vocally, Dee still bounces, pogos and swirls his locks while nailing "The Kids Are Back," "What You Don't Know (Sure Can Hurt You)" and "You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll" to the sheets before 40,000 berserker fans who meet him, word-for-word.
While French and Ojeda wail away for their worth and AJ Pero has a few hiccups and flubbed rolls but otherwise pounds his kit with snazzy accuracy, the other story musically is Mark Mendoza. Well-known for bitch-slapping his bass with envious resilience, Mendoza makes it look fluid instead of aggressive, and he hits some huge scales and sequences at blazing speed, ala "Stay Hungry," "Under the Blade" and "Burn in Hell."
Mendoza opted out for dolling up like the other Twisteds, yet you really don't notice that much or care, honestly. Twisted Sister has reached a point in their careers where the New York Dolls element of their presentation has finally become secondary to the music.
Whereas they were the ultimate freak show of the eighties, they had the wherewithal and sensiblity to film their video for "The Price" in street clothes as evidence of that song's seriousness. Some people thought that video and "Hot Love" where Twisted are depicted as ordinary headbanger-bikers was risky. Nowadays, there's no issue; the glam image is just a part of the show.
"The Price" performed at Wacken still holds meaning for Twisted Sister, if not more at that point in 2003, having overcome the odds both internally and externally. Nobody expected Twisted Sister to be on the dime in such a short regrouping period, but they dust off the true fan classics like "Shoot 'em Down," "Like a Knife in the Back," "Under the Blade" and even "Destroyer." It all shreds. "The Fire Still Burns" from Come Out and Play also gets a crack at shining amongst the staples "I Wanna Rock," "You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll" and "We're Not Gonna Take It." Stay tuned for a huge smile as the Wacken crowd continues to sing "We're Not Gonna Take It" twice after Twisted Sister finishes, forcing them to kick up reprises in appreciation.
The coolest part to Live at Wacken: The Reunion is the mingled interview segments and side footage recounting the collapse and eventual rebuilding of Twisted Sister. Each band member speaks out during the intercuts of the main Wacken program where past animosities are detailed and healed, benefit shows are assembled in the light of rekindled friendship and Twisted Sister becomes a mighty force yet again in the new millennium. Ultra cool is watching Twisted rock out in regular clothes at a tribute show to their benefactor Jason Flomm, as is a wild stage transition where the Blue Man Group taps out "We're Not Gonna Take It" on PVC pipes, leading into a surprise performance by Twisted themselves.
Also included in this package is a bonus CD filled with live material spanning three points in Twisted Sister's lineage. While most live DVDs nowadays have separate CD packaging of the same material, you get six songs from the Wacken performance here (along with "I Am, I'm Me," which doesn't appear in the video) plus another five corraled from the early days. There's four tracks from 1980 when Tony Petri was drumming for the band, recorded in Detroit and Portchester, NY. These are pure gems aside from artifacts. Even if every band and their mother does Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild," it sounds fitting emitted from a bar rock band at that point still working on becoming a legend. This is a time where Dee was still an anarchist behind the mike, and he is indeed wild. "Bad Boys of Rock 'n Roll" sounds beautifully rough, as does "I'll Never Grow Up, Now!" Too bad this one didn't stay in the band's set over time.
Sound-wise, the only complaint to Live at Wacken: The Reunion is Jay Jay French's audio feed is turned down a bit. We miss some of his solos and when he's spieling his thanks to the Wacken crowd, it's veiled and so thin you'll need to turn it up. Of course, you'll already have it cranked, won't you?
Overall, a killer document of a heavy metal great who had the grace to bring all five key members back onto the team first instead of trying to sell a charade. This is legit, it's loud as hell, it's a fun run back to a time when life was a bit less strenuous even in the midst of a cold war. Most of all, it's a rally for all the SMF's of the world who believed in and supported this moment. Now if we can just get that new studio album... Twiiiisted Siiiiisterrrrrr....come out to playyyyyeeeeee.... Clink your beer bottles like a glassy mantra to the tune of The Warriors and Come and Out Play...
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Twisted Sister - Live at Wacken: The Reunion CD & DVD