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

Twisted Sister

With a title like “Twisted Sister: Live At Wacken – The Reunion”, one might assume that this DVD is just another live concert video from yet another 80’s retro act.  Fans of the band, or SMFs, if you will, will be delighted to learn that this DVD/CD package is so much more than the title suggests.

With 105 minutes of new footage, both professional and fan-shot, as well as a CD bonus disc containing 5 previously unreleased live tracks, “Live At Wacken” is a must-see for Twisted Sister fans and critics alike.

As one of the most influential metal bands of all time, Twisted Sister enjoyed multi-platinum sales during their early years, cashing in on teenage rebellion with songs and videos about rocking, fighting with your parents, and why people who don’t rock suck at living.  Especially your parents.  On a personal note, my exposure to heavy metal was the video for ‘I Wanna Rock’, which I recorded to VHS and played until the tape turned to dust.  I mean, that was pretty much the coolest shit EVER.  It was funny, angry, loud, and my parents hated it.  Perfect.

In retrospect, Twisted Sister’s brand of chest-thumping machismo is a little goofy by today’s standards.  Middle aged drag queens who look like Christina Aguilera aren’t exactly ‘metal’ compared to, say, Slayer or Norwegian church-burning murder-core bands.  At least not in my neck of the woods.  Even Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider has laughingly questioned the sexuality of men who rock out to dolled-up men dressed in leather and lace.  You can’t really blame the guys for trying to distance themselves from the band during the hipper-than-thou grunge years.

This DVD addresses these issues, with candid interviews interspersed among the live performance footage.  One by one, the band members reveal their struggles with their personal and professional demons and the long, sometimes painful process that brought them all back together.

Kicking things off with high-production footage of the band’s 2003 reunion show at Wacken Open Air Festival, the DVD wastes no time getting down to business with a breakneck-speed version of ‘What You Don’t Know (Sure Can’t Hurt You)’.   Performance-wise, many of the songs feel rushed, at times verging on a train wreck.  In an interesting twist, the band actually points out their rusty playing, specifically including footage of a near-disastrous version of their classic ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ at an industry gig that features an amazing cameo appearance by the Blue Man Group.  Yeah. That Blue Man Group.  Bizarro.

That said, you have to give credit where it’s due: Dee Snider’s voice is still in tip-top shape, and his showmanship can still whip any crowd into a frenzy.  Granted, there’s no excuse not to sing along at a Twisted Sister concert, no matter how cool you are, so crowd participation is almost an automatic reflex.  These songs are anthems from a simpler age, when the only thing that mattered was getting laid and rocking hard.

What really stands out about this DVD is the band’s ability to step outside themselves and take a look at their career from an objective point of view.  I admit, I started watching it with more than a hint of cynicism, as I’m sure many others will.  By the end, I had a new respect for them.  They understand the nostalgic connection that millions of people still feel towards them, and take a humorous approach to getting back into their costumes.

In an ironic twist of fate, the band – who was once practically labelled an enemy of the state by the US government (see: PMRC hearings) – was invited to perform a series of USO shows in South Korea.  As bassist Mark Mendoza points out, it didn’t matter whether they were fans of hiphop, country, or whatever, the military brass and soldiers alike treated them like royalty and had the time of their lives.  This is just another example of how things have changed for the band, and perhaps the world at large.

The music industry has a nasty habit of chewing up bands and spitting them out when their flavor wears off.  Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and appreciate things for what they were, not what they are.

The DVD also features a live CD of performances from 1980, 1982 and 2003.

Stay hungry, suckas.