Twisted Sister: Live at Wacken: The Reunion (DVD)

I wanna rock!

After more than 15 years of bitterness, heavy metal band Twisted Sister played its first official reunion concert at a festival in Wacken, Germany in 2003, thus ending the band’s wallow in obscurity and kicking off a new chapter in its career. But reuniting a band is more complicated than just saying, “Hey, let’s get the guys together and play some of our old hits.” This disc features not just the group’s triumphant return concert, but a look at everything that went into bringing all five band members back to the stage.

On bass: Mark “The Animal” Mendoza. On drums: A.J. Pero. On guitars: Jay Jay French and Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda. And on vocals, it’s the SMF himself, Dee Snider. Ladies and gentlemen—Twisted Sister!

It seems like a lot of people out there, mostly young people, just don’t get ’80s rock. They’ve seen Ozzy sparring with his kids on TV while his wife hosts an especially awful TV show. They’ve seen countless VH1 Behind the Music specials about the overnight rise and fall of these bands. They’ve seen This is Spinal Tap. And they like to joke about the big hair, makeup, and tight pants. What they don’t realize was that at the time, these were tough guys. Their music, no matter how quaint it might seem today, was fueled by rage and rebellion, and listeners related to it.

Case in point: Twisted Sister. The band’s famous anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It” has been heard over the years in a number of different settings—not just to depict rage and frustration, but also to depict empowerment, and standing up for oneself. The song’s use on radio stations around the country as a “pick-me-up” after the Sept. 11 tragedy helped the band find some new recognition. Not bad for a bunch of old guys with mascara and crimped hair.

Right off the bat, one can tell that this concert film is not at glossy as some others out there. One gets the sense that it was filmed on the fly. The guys in the band are on stage doing their thing, and one can only imagine the exhausted camera crew trying to keep up while staying out of their way. There’s a lot of repetition here, with the same kinds of shots over and over. Just how many times can they rely on the over-the-drummer’s-shoulder shot, or the close-up-of-the-guitarist’s-hands shot, or the sweeping-across-the-audience crane shot? Although they do their best, this just doesn’t have the visual power of other concert films.

But the performance itself shows that after more than 15 years spent in musical hibernation, Twister Sister hasn’t missed a beat. First off, they’re actually brave enough to appear in their “classic” outfits, including the full makeup, giant hair, and those big shoulder pad things with the tattered red rags hanging from them. But more importantly, they can still play. The performance here is pure energy. Snider is a pure madman, of course. He jumps, crawls, and head-bangs his way from one end of the stage to the other. The others easily keep up with him, playing with all they’ve got.

But the performance is only half of what’s here. Cut in between concert segments is a documentary about the band’s reunion. These are “tell-all” interviews with band members, and they’re not hesitant to dish out the dirt on why Twisted Sister broke up. We get the details about almost-reunions over the years, such as a song they recorded for Snider’s film Strangeland—with the band members in separate studios—and interviews for the above-mentioned Behind the Music. There is also footage from the band’s first real reunion at a Sept. 11 benefit concert, and its tour with the USO, entertaining U.S. troops in Korea. This footage also features performances, and adds some variety to the main concert, making it great to include.

Although the cinematography leaves a little to be desired, the digital transfer here is a good one; so sharp you can practically count each band member’s gigantic eyelashes. In true Twisted Sister fashion, the audio is loud, loud, and loud. The 5.1 track makes full use of all the speakers, with a lot of aural details in each song. This is the disc to play when you want to annoy the people living upstairs. The only extras are a behind-the-scenes look at the band in the studio, and an artsy black and white photo gallery.

The concert is a “DVDPlus” release, with DVD and CD sides on opposite sides of the disc. The CD features five unreleased live versions of Twister Sister songs recorded in 1980 and 1982, and six tracks from the Wacken concert. Like the audio portion of the DVD, all the tracks sound great, even the older ones, despite their age.

There have been numerous online complaints about one side of the disc or the other not playing. [Ed. note: These “hybrid” discs (including the essentially identical DualDisc format) are slightly thicker than the usual DVD/CD; some CD and DVD players—mainly certain computer drives—cannot load or seat the disc properly due to this extra thickness.] Both sides played just fine on all of this critic’s equipment, but buyers beware nonetheless.

OK, so hair metal might not be for everyone. But if you’ve only seen the pictures and heard the jokes without sitting down to hear the music itself, you should at least give it a try. Who knows—you might wanna rock, too.

The Verdict

Not f’n guilty.

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