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Twisted Sister Live At Wacken

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Sunday, September 25, 2005 @ 8:29 AM

The Reunion

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This band was great.

You know, I could really give a rat’s ass what Dee and the boys wore back in the day, and I think I’ve heard about all the drag queen jokes/Bette Midler jibes that exist. Face it, if one looks at this band’s legacy objectively though, it becomes evident that Twisted Sister was guilty of one major sin--Stay Hungry got huge, and the band simply got overexposed. Insert typical group turmoil afterwards followed by the inevitable breakup and ensuing trip to VH-1 and an episode of Behind the Music, and what you’re left with is a scenario that wasn’t unlike many groups of the day. The difference primarily though is that Twisted Sister simply had more talent than Steel Heart, Bang Tango, Firehouse, White Lion, Slaughter and Trixter had put together, yet history often wants to paint them with the same brush. It isn’t fair…but then again, why would one expect fairness in a world where Velvet Revolver sells tickets while better bands like Ministry, Anthrax or even Over Kill are relegated to smaller venues while being largely ignored by the mainstream media. Any true metal fan should realize that a Twisted Sister reunion is good news, and any DVD documenting said event should be as welcomed as warmly as Terrell Owens at a Jackass Convention.

Live at Wacken begins with “What You Don’t Know” which features the band playing in a tight, spirited fashion in front of about 40,000 fans in Germany. The boys all appear pretty much the same as they did back in the day donning make up and big hair--with the exception of bassist Mark Mendoza, but…uh, with his size these days, I don‘t think we want him running around with the same familiar makeup and old school fro--he’d look kinda like your local meat cutter indulging some kinky sex fetish involving a parakeet and a urinal cake on the bad side of town. After the introductory track, the first interview segments are interspersed between songs, and in this case they deal primarily with the beginning of the band as well as discussing the state of the band as the final show in 1987 took place. All members of TS speak candidly and articulately here as Dee Snider, Mark Mendoza Jay Jay French are especially insightful as they each give their perspective on the events which led to the group’s official break up after a show in Minneapolis. One interesting disclosure concerns Dee talking about how Love Is For Suckers was actually supposed to be his own solo record, but how record company pressure led to the eventual inclusion of the rest of the group in the project--to the detriment of Twisted Sister in the long run. Then, for the next nine years following the last concert, the only members of the band who spoke were Jay Jay and Mark--the band member whose resentment of Snider ran deepest.

What follows are all of the classics including “Stay Hungry”, “The Kids Are Back” and “You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll.” For a time, it really is 1986 again. Dee looks and sounds exactly the same--yes, the make up certainly helps, I’m sure, but the rest of the group is impressive as well. Eddie Ojeda shines on guitar as does AJ Pero on drums. Everyone knows these two musicians were always good, but Dee’s persona and Jay Jay’s glasses often seemed to overshadow almost everything else about Twisted Sister at certain times--including the music. This is problematic though as image alone wouldn’t make the band continue to be of interest to fans overseas or energize military personnel as Twisted Sister participated in a U.S.O. Tour of South Korea in 2003. When French reveals that during the duration of Twisted Sister’s original run, he was the consummate rocker but that now he realizes he is simply playing the part of the person he once was, it is a bittersweet disclosure. In one sense what he says is perceptive and true while in another, you realize that although the performance footage here could very well be vintage, it sadly isn’t and somehow many years have gone escaped us all.

The show ends with staple classics “Burn In Hell”, “I Wanna Rock” and “S.M.F.” Although these songs are all typical crowd pleasers, the highlight of the concert is a heartfelt rendition of “The Price”. You’ve got to wonder how many times the lyrics of this song ran through the minds of various band member’s heads in different forms throughout the group’s run.

“Oh it's the price we gotta pay,
and all the games we gotta play
makes me wonder if it's worth it to carry on
'cause it's a game we gotta lose,
though it's a life we gotta choose
and the price is our own life until it's done
time seems to have frozen,
but the mind can be fooled.”

When Dee runs through the words here, it is easy to believe what the band asserts several times on this DVD which is that if the band were to again fade away, this would be the ending they would want--not an acrimonious split hastened by fame and fueled by a number of outside influences.

It may have taken the tragedy of 9-11and the re-incorporation of the song “We’re Not Gonna Take It” into the America’s consciousness to get the band back full force, but sometimes it takes drastic events to occur to bring back unlikely reunions, and TS should be applauded for their efforts to both raise funds for victims of the terrorist attack as well as going out of their way to reach out to those enlisted personnel in dire need of a “strange little taste of home” as Dee says. It should also be noted that this release is a “DVDPlus” offering wherein there is an audio side as well, but be aware that it doesn’t feature the entire concert--instead it showcases six songs from the Wacken, four tunes from a set in Detroit recorded in 1980 as well as a rendition of “You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll” taken from a London performance in 1982. Purchasing Live In Wacken is about like buying an autobiography and concert with tons of material to watch and rewatch over and over. If there is anything that could be improved about the disc, it would be probably be separating the interview portion from the actual concert, but that is a personal preference it really isn’t that irritating, and yeah, this may not be a multimillion dollar endeavor as far as production, but it is real, and it’s captivating and well worth the price you gotta pay.

Here’s hoping this isn’t an end and that Twisted Sister finds it worth it in the future to carry on…


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