I’ve seen Twisted Sister twice, once at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia in 2005, and again for their Christmas show, A Twisted Christmas, at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pennsylvania in 2009. I’ve also caught Dee Snider’s Van Helsing’s Curse in 2005. So how did I enjoy their most recent concert?
This country girl with a heavy metal heart found herself at a recent Twisted Sister show. (Yes, my middle name is Lynn, named after the country singer, and no, I have never been happy about it).
I traveled up the New Jersey Turnpike to Sayreville, home of native son Jon Bon Jovi, to the Starland Ballroom. I had never been to this venue and assumed the worst considering its close proximity to the infamous, now closed, Birch Hill Entertainment Complex. I had the misfortune of seeing Ronnie James Dio at Birch Hill, which was a dive bar located in a field. If you ever watch That Metal Show, they sometimes mention Birch Hill, which was located ten minutes from Starland. (That Metal Show host and New Jersey resident Eddie Trunk was in attendance at the Twisted Sister show).
Starland Ballroom was a far cry from Birch Hill. It had a nice layout, and although I am vertically challenged, I found a place to stand where I had enough personal space to breathe and still see the stage. I would recommend this venue and visit again. It struck me as odd that I wasn’t subject to a search of either my person or purse. That’s fine if it was standard policy and not because I looked like I wasn’t capable of raising hell. It was a metal show after all.
The concert was a benefit to celebrate the life of Twisted Sister drummer, A.J. Pero, who died earlier this year at age 55 of a suspected heart attack. All proceeds from the show went to the Pero Family, some of whom were in attendance that night.
The band no longer wears their outrageous makeup and costumes, but frontman Dee Snider still sports his trademark blond hair. He wore a white tee shirt that read “F&%k It,” possibly alluding to next year’s farewell tour, “Forty and F&%k It,” marking the group’s 40th anniversary.
Filling in for A.J. Pero on drums was Mike Portnoy, who played with Dream Theater and Winery Dogs, to name just a couple acts he’s played with during his career. Portnoy took some friendly ribbing from Snider about his dog tattoo. The frontman told him it wasn’t metal, any maybe he should add an eyepatch to the pup to toughen the look.
The band played an hour and a half of their catalog. Fans were treated to songs from an era where long hair and spandex were mandatory metal attire. Twisted Sister performed such hits as “What You Don’t Know,” “The Kids are Back,” “Stay Hungry,” “The Beast,” “Shoot ‘Em Down,” You Can’t Stop Rock & Roll,” “I Believe in Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Under the Blade,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “The Fire Still Burns,” “The Price,” “Burn in Hell,” “I Wanna Rock,” “Tear it Loose”, and finished with “S.M.F.” as the encore. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t hear “Horror-Teria” off the Stay Hungry album. The campy 1998 movie Strangeland was loosely based on this song.
Snider announced that “Shoot ‘Em Down” was for all the buttholes of the world. Well, not exactly those words, but you get the idea. “The Price” was dedicated to A.J. Pero. It is about the sacrifices that are made to forge a music career. During “Burn in Hell,” a screen came down from the top of the stage, blocking the performers, to show muted footage of A.J. playing the drum solo during that song, although it was Portnoy’s beats that were heard. It was a poignant moment to be sure.
Dee Snider brought me back to a preteen in 1984/1985 when he mentioned “S.M.F.,” what it stands for, and how that was the last time those words were spoken in Congress when he was asked to speak before a Senate hearing to the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center) regarding censorship. It was this group who was responsible for warning labels that would later appear on CDs, alerting kids everywhere to content guaranteed to offend parents, making the disc all the more appealing. Below is a short clip of Snider’s speech.
At the show’s conclusion, we were blown away by how good the group sounded after all these years. If you’re a fan or curious about an 80’s hair band, check out next year’s final tour, the last chance to see them live. Snider swears this will be the end of Twisted Sister, a farewell that will not drag on for years like other bands. It may have been their last appearance in the Garden State, but it was a performance to remember and appreciate. You can see a video of the show below.