Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ 05/17/14 
Sunday, May 18, 2014, 09:33 PM
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Hooray! Hooray! The blog is back! Thank you Webbie for fixing the blog after it was spammed into oblivion!

Welcome back, my babies! Here we are once again for the 2014 Twisted Sister tour season and we’re already off to a fantastic start. Superstorm Sandy may have flooded the place, but Twisted Sister blew the lid off last night. It was absolute, heavy metal annihilation as our boys in black and pink celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the release of Stay Hungry, rocking out with special guests Stephen Pearcy (formerly of Ratt) and Killcode. There were plenty of surprises in store—including [spoiler alert] all five original members playing—yes, that means A.J. Pero on the drums (more on that later) and a special cover of Motorhead’s “Born To Raise Hell.” If that’s not enough, there were two awesome, totally surprising concert announcements—Fox News All American Concert Series on July 25th (7:00 A.M.) and the Best Buy Theatre NYC on September 5, 2014.

Oh, but there’s more. So much, much more to tell you all, and I believe you all know that can mean that it’s time to bring you what can only be described as the first blog longer than a Shakespearian insult….the tour blog that gives you all the details that true fans lust after…and make the rest of them youtube it just to see if it’s true….the one….the only…Armadillo Road Report: The Official Twisted Sister tour blog and concert review of the Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, New Jersey, May 17, 2014. This special edition brought to in high-definition 3D—please don your special glasses…NOW!

As many of you already know, this was supposed to be the second date of the 2014 Tour, but the Starland Ballroom show was hailed as the “warm-up” to the European Tour—and more importantly, this first gig was a celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the release of the original “Stay Hungry” vinyl. Now depending upon whom you ask, “Stay Hungry” was either the beginning of the end for Twisted, or it was the introduction of the Sisters to an entirely new generation. That essentially threw down the gauntlet at this show—clearly the second generation of Twisted fans were going to be ecstatic. But given the location of the venue, it was bound to attract scores of Old School S.M.F.’s who wanted to hear ANYTHING and EVERYTHING pressed and delivered prior to 1984. Tough task, indeed, how to please us all.

But first, a taste of the road. [for those of you new to this blog, I’m about to embark on my usual literary masturbation which likely involves gastronomy and travel details. If such drudgery bores you, just keep tabing down and eventually, there will be music described.]

This is not my first trek to the Starland, but nevertheless, I had a bit of trepidation. My last adventure there involved a quick detour into the New Brunswick to pick up Da’ Mayor, SMF DCT, and somehow the two of us managed to get remarkably lost, in spite of many people telling us to turn left at the Dunkin Donuts. We eventually did arrive—12 right-handed u-turns and six Dunkin Donuts later. Seriously….who the hell designed a state in which you can’t make a left turn, and Dunkin Donuts dot the landscape more than traffic lights. It’s maddeningly obscene. So thanks to google maps, I did manage to find a new way there that only involved two left turns from the right lane (and yes, sonofabitch but one of them was at a Dunkin Donuts)—of course, true to form like last time, getting back to the hotel was an adventure because not only are left turns impossible, but apparently you can only go South on Route 18 to Sayreville. I hope the planner for New Jersey highways has his own special circle in Dante’s Inferno.

In any case, this drive found me quite nostalgic because it meant I drove past the exit for Six Flags—the place where the Armadillo Road Reports first began. It was July 5, 2003—and it was the first time I had ever driven more than an hour by myself—and certainly my first time driving on the turnpike. My knuckles were white the entire drive—petrified almost covers it—I stopped at every single rest stop. What can I say? Nervous bladder. That first reunion show for me was life changing. I managed to overcome terrible fear—my completely irrational (sometimes) fear of travel—in order to see the band I never stopped loving. It was my first time in the front row, and I was absolutely hooked from that point forward. I couldn’t believe I was seeing Twisted Sister again—and more importantly, I couldn’t believe how incredible they played after all those years.

If you had told me then, that in eleven years, I would not only be making the drive once more without batting an eyelash, but that I would be helping load in the equipment and light the pathway for the band to take the stage, well…. You know the rest. Seeing them in 2003 was a dream come true then, and every show now just exceeds my wildest dreams, over and over again.

I rolled into Sayreville close to noon and after a few of those dreaded left turns, pulled into the lot of the Starland Ballroom. The Starland took a terrible hit during Superstorm Sandy, completely flooded out from the storm surge. Today’s Starland looks just beautiful. The layout is the same—but completely renovated. New paint, three beautiful new subway tiled bars that rose up from the floor like giant hot-tubs—and just like airplane exits…one in the back, one in the front on each side above the wings. Pizza concession stands still there (I recall that was definitely a plus for me back then) and an ample amount of friendly staff, ready to help park, pour and protect.

This was my first time loading into a small venue like this—it was truly exciting for me, as I pictured that this may have been what it was like, night after night, hauling guitars, Marshall cabinets and reels of cables into a dark, intimate club. Many hands make light work, and it seemed to take just seconds for the big black boxes in the back of a truck to be transformed into the backline. The stage was small by festival standards, but ample for a club this size. An impressive soundboard and lighting beach in the back—and an even more impressive sound coming from the deafeningly loud speakers. A special Armadillo thank-you to the lovely ladies of catering, who prepared a delicious Italian meal that made me long to fall in love with an Italian. It may be the first time I've ever said to anyone, "Oh these balls are delicious--I'm going to get two more..." (Yeah, Kinda regretted it as soon as those words slipped out. Poor turn of a phrase but great meatballs nevertheless)

This evening provided some extra treats—not one, but two soundchecks. The first soundcheck performed by the road crew. I found myself fascinated watching the monitor board sliders, which seemed to move magically as if a ghost were at the controls. Early on, even with the guitar tuning and drum mic’ing still underway, the sound was fantastic. I thought it couldn’t get better until the second treat—all five band members strolled in to do the second check. Only once have I ever seen them do their own sound check—and that one time was a part of a VIP Christmas package—Dee explained, at the time, that he didn’t normally like to have people in the room when he did a sound check. So when the Snide One took the stage for soundcheck, I tried to make myself as invisible and non-descript as possible. They played their standard “Shoot ‘Em Down” for the check, but then did a quick rehearsal of a few other songs to ensure the transitions were down smoothly.
When they broke into a song that I didn’t immediately recognize—it took me a few seconds to realize that they were playing….MOTORHEAD. My second favorite band! (Metallica would have been if they hadn’t gotten so new-agey after the Justice album, but I digress….) “Born to Raise Hell” sounded absolutely amazing during the soundcheck, and by this point, I was so excited for doors to open, I could barely contain myself.

The doors opened early for the Meet N’ Greet---held in one of the little “corrals” by the rear bar, stage left. All five band members spent an ample amount of time with the lucky fans who had VIP passes, signing plenty of goodies and taking lots and lots of photos that now grace the walls of facebook all over the mid-atlantic. Once general doors opened, the club quickly filled. Unlike some of the past shows, this one was packed from the moment the show began.

I was glad to see such a full house—the only thing harder than being a Twisted Sister opening act playing to an empty house is to play to a packed Twisted Sister crowd. Killcode (www.killcode.net and you can also find them on Facebook) had a tough job ahead of them, and they pulled it off well. This was my introduction to Killcode—a relatively new band from NYC—formed in 2008 but clearly, they are serious about rocking hard and gave an all-around solid performance. Well-polished and well-practiced, they let the music speak for itself instead of trying to pull off some gimmick or cliché. Overall, good original metal tunes with a ballad thrown in for good measure—I can usually judge the success of an opener when the audience is still doing the head bobs after the third song instead of looking antsy or bored, which let’s face it, does happen quite a bit with some the cookie-monster metal acts we’ve seen. Killcode delivered what the fans wanted—strong vocals, hard guitars and no-fluff—just some good ol’ heavy metal. Well done, lads.

Next up was special guest, Stephen Pearcy. (formerly of RATT) I must confess—I wasn’t able to catch all of his set, but I heard the fans rocking out to quite a few songs (formerly played by RATT) such as “Way Cool Junior” “Wanted Man” and “Round and Round.” He even gave us a Judas Priest cover—“Headed to the Highway”. I’m not sure that was the best song choice--Pearcy almost took a header himself at one point—but thankfully caught himself so that he didn’t fall headfirst into the monitors! There were quite a few RATT fans in the house…(or, perhaps, fans formerly of the band RATT, now Stephen Pearcy fans) and Mr. Pearcy gave props to Twisted Sister—the two bands really do go way back, sharing many a bill back in the day. Someone Stage Right in the front will have to tell me, but I swore I saw a pair of panties go sailing past Pearcy. True? If so…those were some MIGHTY big panties. You go, fat-bottomed girls! Rock on! Pearcy’s bass player won my award for the first annual Jay Jay look-alike contest. I mean it—from a profile, it was uncanny: the hair, the glasses, the black shirt…he even had that backward lean into his solo….just so….

Speaking of “back in the day” and fans in the house—I am so pleased and proud of all my Slamboard brothers and sisters last night. There were so many Slamboarders there—I don’t want to risk leaving anyone out—but you were all there in the front row (most of ya!) and showing how it’s done. There’s nothing worse than those folks who muscle their way to the front row, but then stand there trying to look cool, only to be humiliated by Dee later. Saturday night—Dee didn’t have to single anyone out because that crowd was PUMPED! Hair…fists…teeth (wait, those may have been mine…) all flying through the air.

And we also had some serious S.M.F. royalty in the house last night. I mean it. Donna from CT (DCT) was there with the original front row gals…including Mary La Fleur and Karen Kryme! If you don’t know who Karen is, just wait for the movie, “We Are Twisted Fucking Sister” to come out—or you can visit the “Twisted Sister In the Clubs-1976-1983 (unofficial) facebook page (run by SMF Peter from the Slamboard) where you will so many amazing bits of Twistory from the club days, many from Kryme’s personal collection. Great stuff.

Oh? What’s that, you say? What movie? “We Are Twisted Fucking Sister!—The Movie” a rockumentary by Director and Producer Andrew Horn, who incidentally, was ALSO in the house Saturday night after a long flight from Germany. (bop on over to his facebook page—just look for “Twisted Sister—The Movie” and you’ll get a sneak peak at some photos and interviews that will have you salivating for this movie to come out soon. And no, I don’t know when you’re getting your fucking tee-shirt. They’re coming for crissake. I swear they are.]

Oh wait, there’s more! (and I haven’t even GOTTEN to the music yet!) Also in the house was Mr. Mark “Weiss-Guy” Weiss snapping shots next to our own Don “Webbie” the Twisted Webmaster….and…..wait for it….wait for it….CHARLIE “Sixth Sister” BARRECCA! I couldn’t believe I got to finally shake hands with a true legend—a man I have admired for so, so long. I was so upset that I wasn’t able to go to Charlie’s benefit back in 2005—I remember longing to meet “the sixth sister” since I saw his name on the liner notes the first time I turned that vinyl over in my hands. Charlie is Twisted’s former Soundman—a man with tremendous talent and a huge heart to boot. Every now and then, you can meet someone, and before they even open their mouth, you can sense a certain aura—a glow about them. Charlie has that glow. He radiates it. It was insanely loud and so I didn’t get to chat, but was so thrilled to shake his hand. It was great to see him in his element, and I can honestly say, that he had a smile on his face the entire show. I loved looking over my shoulder and seeing Charlie singing along and rocking out to a great sounding show. Mr. Barrecca—I salute you!

Onto to the show.
Sorry to make you wait so long but I’ve had a lot of pent up…..penmanship since the South of the Border fiasco.

Here is your Sayreville Starland Stay Hungry Setlist:

1. Stay Hungry
2. The Kids Are Back
3. Shoot ‘em Down
4. The Beast
5. You Can’t Stop Rock n’ Roll
6. Don’t Let Me Down
7. I Believe in Rock n’ Roll
8. We’re Not Gonna Take It
9. Captain Howdy
10. Street Justice
11. The Price
12. Burn In Hell
Drum solo
13. I Wanna Rock
* encores *
14. Born To Raise Hell
15. Under The Blade
16. S.M.F.

That’s right…every single track off “Stay Hungry” plus a few extra goodies thrown in for good measure. I have a bet with Jay Jay that this is NOT the first time they’ve played the entire Stay Hungry album in the U.S. The blog has been down so I haven’t been able to check my archives.

Twisted took the stage about twenty past ten o’clock—the place was absolutely mobbed and packed in tight, “nut to butt” as I call it. Jersey and NY fans—you are primo! The place just went crazy, Jersey style, from the opening chord. It was actually kinda nice to hear “Stay Hungry” as an opener—a nice change of pace from the “What You Don’t Know” they usually play at festivals. Dee took the stage by force, decked out in a “Shits Happening” shirt, sporting new ink and the kind of six-pack abs you see on late night television by someone hawking protein shakes and Insanity video tapes. Dee was on a special workout and nutritional program, and he looks FANTASTIC. Just rippling with muscles—I can’t ever remember seeing him looking this ripped. And a grandfather at that! Boy, do I feel like a lazy, slob now.

Twisted played in front of a bones logo/pink chain-link backdrop—and I’ll say it again—the sound was incredible! Not just loud, but beautifully balanced, clean sounding and even. Usually, if you want great sound, you have to hang back by the sound board. The front row (and worse, the sides/back of the stage) tend to have the worst sound. But fans could hear each guitar, plenty of drums and bass (but not too much…yes, you can have too much bass. Please no one tell Animal I said that….I really treasure my limbs] and best of all, Dee’s vocals.

I was pleased as punch (as were many of the Old Schoolers present) to hear older cuts like “The Kids Are Back” and “Shoot ‘em Down” interspersed with 1984 gems. This was different from the 25th Anniversary setlists, and I found the transition between songs to be very cohesive and thoughtful. In fact, the majority of the evening’s performance was very tight. I don’t mean to sound surprised by this—but I have noted that sometimes, the first show of the tour can sometimes be slightly off-kilter if the band hasn’t played together in a while. Not at all true for this Starland show. It was a solid performance from start to finish.

Eddie gave us a great solo on “The Beast”—offset by Mark’s pounding on the bass—and this audience needed no prodding whatsoever. They had hands…and they used them! I particularly enjoy hearing “You Can’t Stop Rock N’ Roll” live, mainly because this song played at concert speed is twice as fast as a 78rpm. There were plenty of hands raised up in the praise…because you really can’t stop rock and roll. [Unless, of course, you’re the Mexican Federal Government. In which case, apparently…you can. Sorry. I’m still sore about that.]

Jay Jay thanked the fans who have stuck with Twisted for 30 years and beyond [bloggers note here: I really think the song “30” would have been totally appropriate!] but they rolled into “Don’t Let Me Down.” It’s interesting-but this song was my least favorite on the recorded album, but has become my favorite Stay Hungry track to hear live. I can’t explain it, but played live, this song really comes to life. There is a richness to the guitar lines and some rhythm section pieces that get lost on the studio tracks but played live, they seem to find a whole new groove. Another real gem to hearing it live was the almost transition in the next song, “I Believe In Rock N’ Roll.”

It only took a few seconds of quite possibly, of THE most recognizable drum intro in rock n’ roll to barrel into “We’re Not Gonna Take It,”—during which a very impressively regalia-clad Dee-impersonator clawed his way to the front, prompting some appreciation from Dee himself. The Mark/Eddie/Jay Jay trio was not only conducted by Dee (standing on the drum riser) but he gave us a little “air violin” as well. Such culture we have at Twisted shows! And the crowd sing-a-long? Definitely as it should be—loud and proud! Dee recalled out everybody loves singing WNGTI—all over the world—it’s the song that everybody likes to sing and won’t stop singing it—his Dee-ism, “It’s so fucking beautiful”—I thought he got a little choked up there. (there’s a Yiddish word for it—verklempt—it’s word. Google it.)

The “Stay Hungry” fans then got a real treat—the very seldom played “Captain Howdy”—which Dee said has only been played 4 times live, including once at a 1984 Bangor Maine show—and the song was performed as a tribute to Stephen King. (Slamboard’s SMF Chris a.k.a Capt Howdy was actually in the house Saturday night having flown in from Chicago—and can actually attest to having been at that show in Maine in 1984—way cool!) I could have sworn I’ve heard it more than four times live…but that’s another trip to the archives for me. It’s a creepy song to be sure….especially once you hear the lyrics. Even creepier? Dee sang part of it to the little girl next to me near the pit, taking in her first TS show. CREEEEEEPY! Gave me the heebie jeebies, but then again, that’s what that song is all about.

Even better, the even LESS played “Street Justice.” It’s a perfect transition from “Captain Howdy” into “Street Justice” and I love how they managed the bridge from one song to the next. These two songs really do play well together, and in my opinion, they should always play them as a set. Of course, I feel the same way about “Ride to Live” and “Knife In the Back” and I’ve yet to hear them back to back. A boy can dream. Getting back to “Street Justice,” for a song seldom played these days, it was tight, cohesive and nicely solo’d by Eddie—the cadence brought us back to Captain Howdy, a very nice touch that I think would have worked even better on the studio version.

This evening was really jam packed full of music with not as many raps as usual—Dee and Jay Jay did take a moment to acknowledge that while “Stay Hungry” was their most successful studio album in the 80’s, today the band is headlining festivals all over the world—and some of the BIGGEST rock festivals in the world—and what’s more, they are blowing away bands half their age! (Uhhhh…actually, some of these bands are a third their age, just sayin’…..) Our boys in black and pink paid homage to the original S.M.F.s—many of whom were in the house tonight—one of my favorite (and poignant) Dee-isms of the night, “We owe you our success….we owe you our lives.” And I can only say, that many of us feel the same way towards Twisted Sister.

“Burn In Hell”—always a crowd pleaser—and tonight, the best moment was A.J. Pero’s mammoth drum solo. For those unaware, A.J. has been drumming with Adrenalin Mob and was originally scheduled to play in Canada the same night of this Starland show. Just days ago, the van carrying the band, crew and gear suffered a terrible wreck on the highway. Banged up and bruised, the band including our own A.J. emerged alive but the gear destroyed and the tour on hold. In spite of clearly being in pain, A.J. delivered a fantastic show—drumming as hard as always, and like an Olympian, he just powered through the pain. Speaking on behalf of fans all over the world, we are collectively breathing a sigh of relief—so grateful that A.J., his son (who was also on tour earlier with The Mob) and all of the band and crew are alive and well. We love you, A.J. Glad your guardian angels worked overtime last week!

“I Wanna Rock” pretty much brings down the house every time, and I’m almost running out of ways to describe it. Dee made sure I had something to talk about. He spoke from the heart about how the first time he wrote this song down, how important the words were to him, how important the words are to the fans….[even the Soviet Union where it’s very popular!] He told the crowd: “You inspired us!”—as we came to the point in the song where Dee typically decrescendo’s…. letting the crowd escalate the tempo…he forgot! Then quickly recovered as the band reminded him, “We need the music softer! Good Idea!” followed by favorite Dee-ism ever: “Of All the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” You know, that would make a bitchin’ tee shirt.

For encores, we had some real treats. The Motorhead cover of “Born To Raise Hell” played for the crowd. I love seeing the surprise on the faces—as they heard the first few notes, and you could see folks mouthing to their friends “What is that song??? Is that….Motorhead???” Oh yeah, babies. MOTORHEAD. I was in heaven.

We had two closer encores—“Under The Blade” played lighting fast…complete with lightning by the way. When they played the line “a glint of steel/a flash of light” lighting engineer Marty (Slamboard name Soullites) gave us a special little effect—a perfectly timed flash of light. And FYI.. it was Marty’s birthday that evening. Dee wished him a happy birthday from the stage (adding, it only gets worse from here. Oh, so not true!) So once more, a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Marty.

The show rounded off with S.M.F. (and a destroyed animal mic stand) all dedicated to the Sick Mutha Fuckas out there, many of whom were in attendance this fine Saturday night. A very special thank you to Killcode, Stephen Pearcy, the staff of the Starland and all of the slamboard faithful and old school rockers who made Saturday night extra special. And again, I just have to give props to my personal heroes--Charlie "Sixth Sister" Barrecca and Mark "Weiss Guy" Weiss and all of the rock and roll royalty. Extra special thanks to the hardest working road crew in rock n' roll and the most awesome fans in the world.

I could not think of a better way to kick off the 2014 tour, and if Saturday’s performance was any indication of what’s to come…watch out Europe! Twisted Sister did what they always do best—destroyed the Starland with the best damn live heavy metal out there!

Watch out, babies. Twisted Sister is back in form and ready to kick some serious ass! See you in Oklahoma next Saturday, babies!

This is Armadillo, trotting off to find some cowboy boots and sunscreen….

Let’s roll, babies!
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