Live At Wacken: The Reunion (DVD)
Eagle Vision, 2005
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/23/2010
Back when I was in eighth grade, and I was still discovering the joys of heavy metal, there were two bands that seemed to be going neck and neck in terms of attracting people’s attention – Ratt and Twisted Sister. And while each group had its dip in popularity (as did, in all fairness, a lot of bands from that time period), it’s ironic to see that Twisted Sister seems to have remained relevant to today’s fan of metal. Sure, they had a goofy appearance, and you really couldn’t say that they were writing anything groundbreaking, but they knew how to touch on the nerves of their audience, capturing emotions that the fans might not have been able to put into words. Why else are songs like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” played to this day?
After a nasty split in 1987, Twisted Sister slowly licked their wounds and came together again as a band, and, in the process, seemed to recapture the fun of being Twisted Sister again. This is captured on the DVD Live At Wacken: The Reunion, which might not be the most technically proficient performance ever recorded to polycarbonate disc, but it definitely does capture a band relishing their return to the spotlight.
Recorded in 2003 at Wacken Open Air Festival in Germany, the “original” lineup (meaning the lineup the record-buying public first knew), led by Dee Snider, slams their foot down on the gas pedal right from the beginning with “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You),” and in terms of the music, they keep things moving at a breakneck pace. Seeing that the speed of a few of the songs had increased from the versions we’ve all grown up with, it almost adds a sense of urgency to these performances – not so much that the band wanted to get through ‘em and be done with them, but more like they were trying to make up for lost time since the breakup. Execution-wise, the overall sound is a little bit sloppy as a result, but not so much that it ruins the performances. (Drummer A.J. Pero’s work, as an example, seems to be buried in the mix a bit, so that some of the percussion work he does tends to be lost.)
When first looking over the contents of the DVD, I have to admit I didn’t like the idea of having the concert broken up by numerous interviews with the band. However, it turns out that these interludes (in which all five members of the band reveal, with no holds barred, the reasons for the breakup, the difficulty of getting back together and the step-by-step process of reconciliation and reunion) give the viewer chances to recover their strength from the outpouring of energy in the performances. Kudos must be given to all the band members for not shying away from discussing the bad times that Twisted Sister had gone through, and how they were somehow able to overcome all this to perform together again. If I had one complaint about the interview section, it’s that I would have liked more information on Bent Brother, Twisted Sister’s “alter ego”; it’s barely touched on in these conversations.
Anyone expecting selections from Love Is For Suckers is gonna be disappointed, though one can honestly understand why this album is left untouched. Other than that, Twisted Sister goes as far back as their debut (originally not available in the States until they hit the big time) Under The Blade for some selections, and one would be hard-pressed to say that any selection the band played in this set was a mistake. Granted, I’ve never been a big fan of the song “Destroyer,” and I’d have gladly substituted “I Am, I’m Me” (which was played in the same set, but is relegated to the companion CD), but that’s just a personal preference. When Snider introduces “The Price,” and one looks back at everything Twisted Sister went through in their history, one understands why this song is so important to the band, even if we didn’t understand the truth of the song back in 1984.
The companion CD is more of a bonus than an actual part of the set; while six of the 11 songs come from the Wacken performance, the first five offer earlier glimpses of Twisted Sister as they worked their way to their first shot at stardom, including some early recordings from 1980. What I tend to notice about these performances is that, in the early days, the pace isn’t as urgent as it even was on the selection from London in 1982; it’s almost like even then, Snider and crew had the throttle set at high, and they simply never thought to slow down.
Live At Wacken: The Reunion might already be a concert that is seven years old, but it does capture Twisted Sister reaping the benefits of a career that was, at that time, 25 years in the making. The statement about the loyalty of metal fans – even to a band who had been broken up for well over a decade – is spot-on, and is likewise a testament to just how important Twisted Sister really was to the genre… and, in a way, still is.