You really do have to admire the tenacity of the members of Twisted Sister over the last forty years. From the apathy of record companies in their beginnings to the loss of their drummer A.J Pero. The Metal Meltdown DVD’s released by Loud And Proud Records consist of a concert at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas on May 30th 2015 to honour him and a documentary highlighting their beginnings up until the Las Vegas concert, which took place two months after his death. The following concerts that year were dedicated to him and the band announced their retirement for 2016, forty years since they formed.
The Las Vegas concert consists of seventeen classics. It must be a tough decision making a set list from their back catalogue but their perennial set opener ‘What You Don’t Know’ crashes in with that unforgettable signature riff and lead vocalist Dee Snider’s call to arms lyrics following an intro of “Alright Las Vegas, if you are ready to kick some fucking ass, we are Twisted fucking Sister!” How could they possibly follow that? They do with a stomping run through of ‘The Kids Are Back’ containing a massive chorus, a staple of their songwriting. ‘Stay Hungry’ picks up the pace with Dee heroically keeping up with the pace set by stand in drummer Mike Portnoy. The slow, heavy grind of ‘The Beast’ follows Dee’s intro of “You got hands, use them.”
‘Shoot Em Down’ is another example of a catchy chorus in a heavy metal song and is dedicated here “To all the assholes in the World.” They wear their hearts on their sleeves with the epic chest beater ‘You Can’t Stop Rock And Roll’, ending with “And you can’t stop Twisted fucking Sister either!” The audience participation that Dee conducts during ‘I Believe In Rock And Roll’ highlights why he is one of the best front men I’ve seen. ‘Under The Blade’ has my favourite riff of theirs, headbanging heaven containing some cheesy but funny choreography.
‘I Am, I’m Me’ is their anthem to end all anthems and judging by the crowds reaction, theirs too. It is pure hard rock with a non conforming message and introduced as “The first hit record we had in the UK.” Their appearance playing this on the TV show Top Of The Pops received many complaints because of their image. ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ is so good it could have been saved for the encores and once again a classic that prompts a huge audience vocal. The power balladry of ‘The Fire Still Burns’ follows an emotional Dee intro dedicating it to the memory of A.J. Once again emotions run high as Dee introduces ‘The Price’ with “This one is for you A.J. as I know you are listening.” Midway through the song, Dee gets all the houselights turned off and asks the crowd to light up the venue with their cell phones for A.J. Guitarist Eddie Ojeda looks completely lost during his lengthy solo.
‘Burn In Hell’ is stretched to a dizzying nine minutes and when the drum solo is due, an array of video screens came on with A.J. playing it from an old gig. I found it very hard to watch. ‘I Wanna Rock’ kicks the album version right into touch. It follows an even more heart wrenching tribute by Dee and how he kept talking, I’ll never know. So, ‘I Wanna Rock’ is as raw as you can get with Dee goading the crowd into singing “Rock” after saying “It is the only four letter word that matters.” ‘Come Out And Play’ gives Alice Cooper some competition for the kings of shock rock and the show ends in style with a super heavy run through of ‘SMF’, introduced as “The last one, but a good one. Its all about you as you are all SMF’s.” A breathless Dee ends with “Thank you SMF’s, thank you sick motherfuckers!”
I must admit to enjoying the Twisted Sister documentary DVD more than the concert as you get to learn a lot more about their early days through to the present day with contributions from fellow musicians, record company staff, club owners etc. The opening headline of ‘The Tougher The Road, The Harder They Rock is very apt. The band in a lift doing an operatic vocal warm up is hilarious and sets the scene for a compelling ninety minutes. It creates a mixture of emotions. One minute I was laughing, then crying. Its that intense. Dee Snider has a big ego but has the voice and stage presence to back it up with an unstoppable belief in the bands talent and when they finally retire in 2016 he could surely find a job as a stand up comedian.
The early years are a fans dream as the band reminisce events, one of which is guitarist Jay Jay French returning to the first bar they played in and meeting up with the owner, followed by a comedy gold segment on how bass guitarist Mark Mendoza joined. Stand in drummer Mike Portnoy sums up how good they were back then by saying “They were doing in the clubs what KISS were doing in the arenas. Five guys playing like Superman.” Their tenacity is shown by not giving in to apathetic U.S record labels ignoring them even though they sold one hundred thousand copies of debut album You Can’t Stop Rock And Roll with no record company backing.
Their break up and subsequent reformation is explained by famous American D.J. Eddie Trunk as he asked the band if they would headline a 9/11 benefit concert in New York. It prompted the band to carry on, albeit playing less live. Heart strings are tugged as Mike Portnoy talks about A.J. filling in for the band Adrenaline Mob when he had left and A.J.’s death saw Mike return less than twenty four hours after A.J had passed away. The DVD ends with the band individually discussing the farewell tour. Eddie Ojeda’s speech is very hard to watch. An outro of ‘SMF’ from the Las Vegas memorial concert wraps things up.
Twisted Sister will play their final UK concert at Bloodstock Open Air Festival on August 12th 2016. I will be there as I was at their first UK show at Wrexham Football Ground on July 24th 1982 so once again, emotions will be running high.