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Monday, July 25, 2011

DVD Review: Twisted Sister - Double Live

Twisted Sister - Double Live
2011 Eagle Vision
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Good evening... Welcome to their show, times two.

If there's one legacy metal band out there making the most of its past, one would automatically think of Motley Crue. Still occasionally recording and hosts of a summer slam festival that's grown in popularity, the Crue are somehow still masters of their domain despite their trials, lunacy and raucous headlines that would sink any other band. They've always been ruffians and the world doesn't want them any other way.

On the other hand, you have to hand it to Twisted Sister. No other band of their stature has ridden a full decade in an official capacity without sending out a brand new album and still maintains a hefty following. Minus a new song on the Stay Hungry 25th anniversary edition from two years ago and a slew of previously-unreleased material on the same package, Twisted Sister has re-emerged on the heels of reissues and live DVDs that have become even more crucial now than when a lot of it was originally released.

Perhaps it's the class clown emcee aura Dee Snider has projected for more than two decades since Twisted originally broke up. Perhaps it's Jay Jay French's restless comandeering of Twisted Sister's reinvention through retrospection. Perhaps we're all just fascinated that this band still has all five core members in their compound and they grew up to be a bunch of downhome bear-men beneath the cake and mascara sneeze.

Perhaps it's just the fact Twisted Sister kicks ass.

It's been well-documented the reason why Twisted Sister imploded after busting their nads for what must've seemed like an interminable waiting period in the sweatboxes of east coast rock clubs. 1987's Love is for Suckers ended up turning most metalheads away despite a handful of strong cuts. Of course, a handful doesn't equate into continued success and if you're familiar with the particulars that went into Love is for Suckers, the disassembly of the band was not surprising.

The band members retreated to their neutral corners for 13 years before a higher calling summoned them back to the rock table. These knighted glam crushers have since restored their personal honor and ditched the majority of their differences. While we're still waiting for Twisted Sister to give us what we feel in our bones should be a good-time slab of new material, now comes Double Live, another couple pieces of the pie, historically-speaking.

Double Live whisks audiences back to 1982 as well as 2001, two periods marking a farewell and a howdy-do point in Twisted Sister's legacy. The '82 concert, filmed at the North Stage Theater in Long Island, is one of the best representations of Twisted at their most unchained, their most punk, their most metal. Here is a Twisted Sister unit on the cusp of ascension towards rock royalty. The 2001 show at New York Steel in Manhattan represents Twisted Sister in its mending phase as the United States was licking its wounds weeks after 9/11. Both shows present their own drama. One is reckless and free, the other, more contained and focused upon pushing forward in a statement of unity--for themselves and their country.

If you're looking for power and aggression, the North Stage show is simply going to blow you out of your socks. Twisted Sister throws out one hell of a goodbye to the tri-state club scene they came up in just days before they ventured off to England to record Under the Blade. What resonates about the North Stage gig is the breathtaking energy in the band. A.J. Pero had only been in Twisted Sister a couple months at this point, but there's an undeniable click to this show. We learn in the interview segments Pero was playing that gig busted up and sore, which is partially why he protrudes a fanged exterior. Regardless, he's as much an animal behind the kit as Mark Mendoza is beneath his one-time shrub. All the boys are at their glammiest here, adding a freakshow dimension that carries forth better in 1982 than when the "We're Not Gonna Take It" video vaulted them into the stratosphere. While Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda flubs his solo on the traditional opening number "What You Don't Know (Sure Can Hurt You)," he gets in the pocket thereafter, even if Jay Jay French is freaking lightning when he carries the solos.

There's an unspoken choreography to Dee Snider's pole positioning as he jukes stage right at a particular lurch then swerves to the other side. You see it in 1982 and you see it on some of the same songs in 2011. When Dee had his gargantuan mane during Twisted Sister's short reign over the hard rock world, it was more about pogoing and leaping about to get those locks trailing. In these shows, it's almost as if Dee sees invisible tape X's marking where to go during "Shoot 'em Down," "You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll," "Tear it Loose," "Bad Boys of Rock 'n Roll" and "What You Don't Know (Sure Can Hurt You)." This is not a criticism whatsoever, because Snider is a fireball in both shows, yet during the '82 gig, all of his limbs flail like he's being electrocuted while he wails and growls. It's infectious to watch.

The North Stage show is stocked with a lot of Twisted Sister's first batch of soon-to-be staples such as the aforementioned tunes plus "Destroyer," "Sin After Sin" and of course their immortal "Under the Blade." Even better, though, is the opportunity to see songs the band considers their retired "bar" tunes such as "Lady's Boy," "Rock 'n Roll Saviours," "I'll Never Grow Up Now" and an incredible rendition of "You Know I Cry." The latter is spectacular for its raw edge, but even more so when Dee Snider re-emerges from behind the amps during some insane tag-team soloing by French and Ojeda with his own guitar. It's a rare glimpse at how proficient a musician Dee Snider really is.

Also of note in the '82 show is the different stage garb Dee wears which you almost never see again later, plus a then-fashionable haunt with a motorcycle onstage during their cover of "Leader of the Pack." It's not quite as revered an image as Rob Halford in a big arena, but you can't deny the moxy and creative spirit Twisted Sister unleashes at the North Stage. Back then, they weren't greeted and cheered by devil's horns. At this point, the A-OK hand symbol sufficed as a fist in the air and it's a trip watching Dee coax the Long Island faithful into throwing out those A-OK thrusts as compared to damn near every metal band today begging for horns by their audience. At least Twisted Sister earned their endearments in this adrenalized performance.

By comparison, the New York Steel show is more about the moment than the performance. As Twisted Sister were shedding their rust after such a long layoff, they do sound remarkably well, all considering. Perhaps not as dense a projection during "The Kids Are Back," "Under the Blade," "I Wanna Rock" and "Shoot 'em Down," you find yourself cheering the guys on anyway. They still pound out "What You Don't Know," "S.M.F.," "The Price" and "Burn in Hell" with gusto. "Burn in Hell" is dedicated to the now-late Osama bin Laden as Dee Snider is wearing a vest with the blazing message "Fuck Osama" on his back. The gory images of the fallen Twin Towers were well upon the band's minds in this show.

The makeup-less Twisted Sister in 2001 presents the old rugged tough guy image you saw in their ages-ago video for "You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll" only with elder lions' muscle. There's an uncertainty within the band just how they're going to come off, much less if there will be a future beyond the moment. A decade later, we now know there is a future to Twisted Sister and bless the guys for nodding back to their club daze with "You Know I Cry" and "Come Back" in the New York Steel show.

Played in company with fellow New York metal legends Anthrax, Ace Frehley, Sebastian Bach and Overkill, the headlining Twisted Sister brings a towering voice to the New York Steel show organized by Eddie Trunk. Kudos to Twisted for putting it all on the line in the interest of their fellow New Yorkers and it's a happy story they managed to continue on, if even only as a revival form of their past at this point.

Each concert has 35-40 minutes of interviews with all five members and as usual, each are worth tuning in for. Piece by piece, Jay Jay French is releasing the frequently bizarre story of Twisted Sister. If you thought the bonus DVD to the Under the Blade reissue was something, get ready for Double Live, especially that cocks-out 1982 performance serving as a bigger symbol of what Twisted Sister is even more than their revered "TS" logo.

Rating: ****1/2

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