The show was the first of several Metal Meltdown concerts to be filmed by classic metal bands at The Joint at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas. Filmed on May 30, 2015, the concert (and tour) was dedicated to original drummer AJ Pero, who tragically died in March 2015 while on tour with his other band Adrenaline Mob.
The concert opens with a two minute montage of backstage and pre-show moments surrounding the show. It features the band talking to the press and each others about the concert and more. Interesting interviews and tidbits are also juxtaposed throughout the concert that give fans an inside look at the past 40 years. One of the more interesting bits is how Twisted Sister recruited former Dream Theater and Adrenaline Mob drummer Mike Portnoy for the band’s final run of shows through 2016. They also explain how the band toured and sold 100,000 albums without the support of a label during its early years.
The lighting and effects of the concert are very unique. The band has incorporated a rainbow of colors that compliments the band’s outfits, dressed mostly in black leather while Snider stood out in all white donning a “Just Say Fuck It” t-shirt. Ten screens of various sizes stretched across the stage that featured fire, the moon, their logo and other various backdrops during the show.
The screens were used appropriately. During “Burn In Hell,” Snider can be seen crawling around shirtless in a pool of red lighting during the intro before standing up and appearing and grinning as the devil. Fire was projected onto the screens as they appeared in hell with real fire shooting up from the stage.
A purple and green set up for the finale, “Come Out And Play,” with a purple moon backdrop was really cool, too. Snider nonchalantly walks back out on stage with his hands up as if were taking over the world when clouds cover the moon on the giant screen behind him.
“We’re gonna honor AJ by playing this show in his name, essentially,” frontman Dee Snider tells KOMP 92.3 in Las Vegas. And that’s exactly what they did throughout the 90 minute set that opens with “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)” and includes “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” “Burn In Hell,” “I Wanna Rock” and more.
By far one of the coolest and unrehearsed moments honoring Pero came a little more than midway through the set during “The Price.” “I got an idea!” Snider tells the crowd during the song. “Why don’t you break out your cellphones, break out your lighters? Lighters!? Break out your lighters. Get ’em out. Let’s turn all the lights off, all the lights off on the stage. You light up the night. Light up the night and get it up for AJ.”
My favorite moment of the entire concert is when the band cut to a drum solo of Pero on the screens during “Burn In Hell.” At first, I thought it was Portnoy playing along until the video cuts to empty sticks on a floor tom several times with Pero’s video displaying on it before breaking back into the song. It was a smooth transition that paid tribute to an underrated drummer gone far too soon. It was really a crowd pleaser.
“In the end, I believe we did what A.J. would have wanted us to do and Mike Portnoy was a very big part of that decision in both an emotional and artistic way,” guitarist Jay Jay French explains. “This performance captured herein just two months after A.J.’s death really was about our way to help memorialize the great A.J. Pero. The front four (Dee, Eddie, Mark and I) have had no one but A.J. behind us since 1982. This concert has A.J.’s influence permeating through our bloodstream in ways that I will never forget and when we cut to A.J.’s drum solo on the rear projection screen, we were all emotionally overwhelmed. Not since our reunion for NY Steel in 2001 (to honor and raise money for the families of the NYC police and fire department who died on 9/11) have I been moved to tears.”
The concert ends with more incisive moments from the band’s storied history. It includes how and when Twisted Sister decided to call it quits after 40 years together and what their plans are after the tour. More of these moments can be viewed in the feature film bonus documentary, Rockshow, that’s included in the set. Rockshow includes full performance cuts from the concert. Both the concert and documentary are complimentary to each other and can be watched separately or together.
A final nod to Pero comes during the end credits when the band is shown performing “SMF” in a bass drum head while the credits roll. Pero is credited as a band member but with RIP next to his name while Portnoy is credited as Guest Drummer Extraordinaire.
While I was familiar with their hits “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock” before viewing this concert, the band has turned me onto more of their music. I was a semi-fan after seeing Snider perform at a Nashville club years ago, but I was mostly interested in seeing this film because of Portnoy’s involvement (I’m a drummer). Now, I have more interest in buying their albums and concert films because of this concert. One may think that after 40 years, the band would display their age, but Snider still acts as if he’s rocking in his 20s with his appealing stage presence. The audio is superb sounding with a fresh 5.1 mix. The documentary is a great retrospective as well. I’m always a fan of rockumentaries and this one is no disappointment.
Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.