Judge Bill Gibron wants to ROCK!
Burn in Hell all Metalhead Poseurs—this is the REAL DEAL!
Twisted Sister were always their own worst enemy. After developing a huge cult following in the bar scene in and around their native New York, they became metal fixtures based on the same pseudo-gimmick that made KISS (and today, Slipknot) household names. The drag act, the female inspired clothing and get-up worn by Dee Snider (lead singer), Mark Mendoza (bass), AJ Pero (drums), Jay Jay French (rhythm guitar) and Eddie Ojeda (lead guitar) turned what was always an amazing group of musicians into a novelty. Even worse, the eventual MTV-ing of their persona placed them square in a domain that was part dopey, part homage (to Animal House, more than anything else) and part power. Today, the reunited quintet call themselves the Iron Men of Rock N Roll. Three decades ago, little about their persona would suggest such a macho tag. Still, they were a fantastic band, even better live, as showcased by this delightful two disc set.
Offering true Twisted Sister rarities, Double Live begins before the band were international superstars. Their 90 minute show at the North Stage Theater in Long Island would be considered by many to be their "farewell"—from the club/bar scene, that is. The group was scheduled to head off to Europe shortly thereafter and record their first LP (1982's Under the Blade). Honed to perfection and sonically skin tight, this version of Sister was a true music machine, even if only the most devoted fan would recognize the set list. Absent are later mega-hits like "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "I Wanna Rock." In their place are cover versions of "Leader of the Pack" (always a weird selection for Snider and the boys) and the Rolling Stones "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)." Along the way, we get terrific takes on "What You Don't Know (Sure Can Hurt You)," "Bad Boys of Rock 'n' Roll,," "Shoot 'em Down" and "You Can't Stop Rock 'n' Roll," among others. Aficionados will really enjoy rarities like "Lady's Boy" and "Destroyer."
It's not hard to see why Sister were pumped and prepared for their future. They are DAMN good here. Snider's frontman chops are flawless, and Ojeda and French are a formidable guitar duo. The direction is slightly pedestrian, consisting of either a long shot of the entire band, center stage, or random (and often out of focus) close-up shots. There is no real complaint with the presentation per se. The music more than makes up for the lack of visual panache. The same can be said for the New York Steel show. Masterminded by rock DJ Eddie Trunk (of VH-1 Classic's That Metal Show fame) and featuring other seminal New York acts like Anthrax and Ace Frehley, the concert was set-up as a benefit for the victims of 9/11. With venue promoters desperate for a hook to sell tickets, the idea was floated of getting Twisted Sister back together. Considering the huge amount of animosity when the band broke up, and the fact that they hadn't played together in over 13 years, it seemed like a crapshoot.
Luckily, the band's love of America and the cause saw them put aside their differences and make an appearance. The 80 minute showcase would lead to an eventual full blown reunion, a recommitment to music that exists to this day. While a little rough around the edges (Snider in particular has some so-so vocal moments), the chance to see the band again after over a decade in exile is exciting. This time around, we get more recognizable fare, with "The Kids Are Back," "Stay Hungry," "S.M.F." and the two previously mentioned hits in tow. Once they get past the obvious stage fright and jitters, the group settles in nicely, Snider doing his best to wave the flag (even wearing a hilarious spangled "F*ck Osama" vest during the set. Sans make-up, looking older and meaner, this version of Twisted Sister truly earns the moniker "Iron Men." Even after a long time out of the limelight, they still rule the metal roost they helped define in the early '80s.
As for the overall presentation here, the DVDs are quite good. North Stage is presented in a 1.33:1 full screen image that is clean, clear, if slightly muddled at times. Remember, this was recorded before video became a solid HD medium. We are getting an upgraded camcorder showcase, nothing more or less. Still, it looks great. So does the 1.79:1 anamorphic transfer offered for New York Steel. While the stage set-up is sparse (no large light show, no pyrotechnics) and the visuals less than flattering, the presentation element matches the music—lean, mean, and more than acceptable. As for the aural aspects, fans might be angry over a pure Dolby Digital Stereo only remaster. No multichannel choice of 5.1 immersion. At least the added content makes up for the lack of pure sonic bliss. We get interview documentaries accompanying each show, the band today discussing the particulars of each gig in an open and honest Behind the Music kind of confessional. There is also a stills gallery accompanying the New York Steel show, as well as DVD cover art essays from Trunk and French.
As a scrapbook of a band slowly reestablishing its classicism, Double Live is direct and delightful. Here is a chance to see Twisted Sister before they became a gaudy roadshow, and after they let fame fracture their brotherhood. A band as good as this deserves such a memento from their past. Luckily, their present seems destined for just as many accolades.
Not Guilty. Great band. Even better sonic souvenir.
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