I used to think that my Metal holiday stocking was filled to overflowing by the time that I would hit the Trans-Siberian Orchestra show but now it seemed that the true Christmas pudding was held off until Twisted Sister would do their seasonal performance of “A Twisted Christmas”. Now in the second Holiday season of supporting their oddly well-received Christmas album, they only need one more go at it to make it an official tradition in the eyes of many of their faithful followers. I said oddly before and this was because while the album was a rocking piece of candy cane smashing Metal with a holiday vibe, it was rather strange to hear Dee Snider singing “White Christmas” and I doubt many of you would argue with me about that. Last years show was out in NJ but this time around we would be treated to the gig at New York’s renamed Irving Plaza. The Fillmore NY would host Dee and the boys for two nights as well, and while Melodic Hard Rockers ZO2 performed on the Thursday show, the Friday appearance once again found Dee’s son and his band Baptized By Fire starting off the festivities. I wouldn’t catch them this year as I was running late but instead I arrived just in time to see the direct support of Joey Belladonna, the legendary vocal powerhouse formerly of Anthrax.
Belladonna: When Joey Belladonna decided to leave the reunited Anthrax after their globe-hopping tour he would not hang it up and rest on his laurels. Instead he put together another band of guys and hit the ground running. Given he had a couple of solo albums out already and a mountain of classic Anthrax material to present this made perfect sense. Joining Joey in the band is Rob Lotta (guitar), R.C. Ciejek (bass) and Paul Marciano (drums) and together they do a damn good job of delivering some tasty original compositions along with the many of the respected and revered Anthrax staples. Belladonna began the set with a couple of his original tunes and to be honest with you these are good songs but nothing truly earth shattering in terms of their reaching new Metal ground. He is a classic Old School rocker and his material as far as his originals follows along these lines. If you lean to the vibe from those early years then this is perfect stuff for you. Its good in the live sense and the band is very energetic as they do it. As a matter of fact I am finding myself more impressed with Ciejek each and every time I see him perform as he strikes me as so “into it” that it can be felt in the audience in front of him. As the third number approached Joey announced that he had a surprise for us, and out came Nick Bowcott from the NWOBHM band Grim Reaper. It was interesting to find him on the stage and I had to say that he went over quite well. Since Grim Reaper was an act from the eighties earliest years I admitted to being a little surprised at the reception he was getting, but did think it was quite cool and a welcome that he would not soon forget. After the third number Joey and crew thundered through Anthrax numbers for the remainder of their set and this was definitely what people wanted to have happen. From my vantage point everyone was singing, or throwing their fists in the air when they were not holding a beer in it. I didn’t observe any actual moshing during “Caught In A Mosh” but perhaps it was based on where I was standing. The screaming during some of Joey’s high notes as far as the crowd went made me certain that the singer heard us as much as we heard him. His voice has held up well over the years but at times does lack the ability to shatter glass that it seemed to possess some twenty years ago but I had to admit that no one was being that analytical and was more focused on being “Anti-Social” and caught in a Metal “Madhouse”. The Anthrax numbers also found Mr. Bowcott on the stage at a number of intervals and this was interesting to see. Its not normal that a guest appearance performs for more than half of the numbers but it was a Friday night in NYC and this was a Metal show that everyone was having a good time at. “NFL” was another crowd sing-along number but I felt “Anti-Social” had a lot more punch to it and while “Indians” is always a show-stopper I would have loved to see Joey sport the headdress for old times sake. I Try to catch him and the band when you can as it’s always a good time. Now it was time for a little Twisted Sister.
Twisted Sister: I am still amazed that the Twisted Sister Christmas album “A Twisted Christmas” had won me over because I admit that when I first heard it I was like “good gravy guys, are you crazy?” Based on the eventual album sales the answer would be yes, crazy like a fox for the recording went on to become quite the cult item and ended up being a Metal slap in the face to the all too sterile Holiday music scene. Having seen the band perform this last year I knew a lot about what to expect tonight but I was happy to find myself in the minority as I polled some of the audience attendees around me. Suddenly the strains of the bagpipes on “It’s A Long Way To The Top” became a Christmas Carol, and it was clearly show time as once again Dee Snider arrived decked out in his Christmas best. You might have thought yourself someone who has seen it all but I defy you to say that when it comes to witnessing the glory of Dee wearing a Santa Claus jacket and hat carrying a bag full of goodies, and in New York’s case tonight these goodies would be candy cane’s and condoms. Talk about your not too subtle imagery; of course while the goodies were being distributed Dee began the merriment with “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” as the fans all jumped for each of the trinkets. It seemed to me that everyone in the front caught something and whether their sweet tooth was better served by the candy or the other things was left to the imagination. The intro song is the only portion of the show where Dee wears the outfit and in the middle break the band gets faster and heavier and when he returns he is in all the Twisted Sister glory that we remember from the videos most of us grew up on. The show that the guys do around the season is an interesting mix of the Christmas album and their fans favorite Metal anthems. Oddly enough the holiday branded Metal seems to work out very well in the live sense and the guys are clearly having a good time doing this. Dee would be his usual master of ceremonies self and continually cited how much he hated the venue tonight. I am not sure what exactly went down, but they did play here the night before and while you normally can tell if it is part of his shtick, this little bit of venom didn’t seem like it. The set this time around would be a little different as the band pulled out a surprise with “Wake Up The Sleeping Giant” from the hardly visited “Love Is For Suckers” album. I enjoyed how they went back and forth across the years with the tunes this evening and even reached back in time far enough for one of my long time favorites “Shoot ‘Em Down”. I think everyone who ever played in a band in NYC knew that one at points in their lives. The Christmas tunes were going over with the expected hilarious response and there were flashing light Santa hats all around the venue. I was not sure if that was a merchandise item tonight but it made the evening a little easier to remember. The show continued on to other classics like “The Price” and soon the entire Fillmore NY was singing along for “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”. If you have not seen the video I suggest you hit YouTube.com to do so. It’s a riot. Dee pauses for a moment to be serious before “I’ll Be Home For Christmas”, as he dedicates the tune to our soldiers away from home who could not be here and are in harm’s way. I found this a noble gesture on his behalf and one that found the audience responding even louder in kind. Some more of the audience banter from Dee involved him looking up to the apparent VIP area for family and friends and seeing no one that he recognized so he started yelling about that while Jay Jay did the same speech about playing in the clubs for years while American Idol contestants get famous after fifteen minutes of air time. While I can see where he is coming from, I think this as a talk routine should not be used as often since its can come off as bitter as opposed to amusing and fun. “Burn In Hell” literally set the roof of the place on fire while “I Wanna Rock” had its usual loud response and soon the guys all assembled with signs to do the sing along “Heavy Metal Christmas”. This track is a hilarious spoof on the “Twelve Days Of Christmas” and quite apropos to the Metal head lifestyle. The mega hit of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was the pre-closing number and to say that the venue was shaking during this one would be an understatement. It is still one of the biggest Metal anthems in our genres history and it hasn’t lost an ounce of its power yet. The guys would close with “S.M.F.“, and it would be to all a goodnight with that one so off the audience went to enjoy dreams of sugar plums and to eventually nurse terrible eggnog hangovers.
Dee mentioned that they don’t do the Twisted Sister thing all that much anymore and do it when they feel like it so outside of a few choice appearances around the world I am pretty sure we can add these holiday shows to their touring schedule. In addition to the holiday CD, Sister has released a live DVD filmed at Sayreville, NJ’s Starland Ballroom in 2006. If you want to get a better idea about the article and pictures that you just saw then get yourself a copy of that. Perhaps the future holds another holiday release for this Transvestite Siberian Orchestra. Stranger things have happened.
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Official Web Site: www.twistedsister.com
Official Web Site: www.joeybelladonna.com
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