Saturday night June 13 was an evening that wasn’t supposed to happen. But the sudden death of TWISTED SISTER/ADRENALINE MOB drummer A.J.Pero last March brought three distinct groups together to celebrate the life of the man who to me created the first hummable drumbeat. First things first, I must comment on the crowd at New Jersey’s Starland Ballroom and what could have been a very sad occasion. They had an air of celebration in honor of a man who brought joy to so many people. Also, something I noticed was the ages of everyone in attendance from children aged ten and up to people in their 40’s and 50’s. People are raising their kids right and I feel like rock and roll will survive. Ok now on to the show.
First up, TWISTED SISTER guitarist Jay Jay French came out onstage with a quick speech and introduced, amid crowd chants of “A.J.! A.J.! A.J!!!,” BILLY MIRA AND THE HITMEN. These guys were awesome. They do a killer mix of Rockabilly/swing covers with a touch of comedy. You’re asking,”How’s this fit with T.S.?” The frontman, Billy Mira was friends with A.J. Pero and told stories of that friendship in between songs and their bassist, Russ Zutto is part of the TWISTED SISTER crew. This is a strong act with amazing musicians; go see them when you can!!! The standout tunes for me were “Zoot Suit Riot” and “Stray Cat Strut” Now on to the middle act, FOUR BY FATE. I was pysched to see these guys for a couple of reasons. The lineup is amazing. Tod Howarth on Lead vocals, guitar and keyboards, Jon Regan on bass (both these guys have a resume a mile long, but for readers of this site,they were original members of FREHLEY’S COMET), Patrick James on guitar/vocals, and Rob Affuso from SKID ROW on the drums.
I’ve had Rob as a guest on my radio show (Check it out HERE, Wednesdays at 8pm EST) and I’ve become friendly with the rest of the guys as well. They opened up with two FREHLEY’S COMET tunes and played two of their own new ones after that followed by SKID ROW’S “Big Guns” Let me say something to all the SKID ROW fans that thought Rob was done: This man tore it up!!! All smiles behind the kit and his playing was amazing!!! It was really awesome to see him up there!!! They played two more songs called “Follow Me” and “Levee Breech” which A.J.Pero recorded with them and will be on their upcoming album Relentless then ended their set with the upcoming single “Moonshine” and a cool version of “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo” These guys are great and I’m proud to call them friends. Check them out, you won’t be disappointed!!
In between FOUR BY FATE and TWISTED SISTER A.J.’S son and daughter came onstage to say some words about their Dad and it was quite heartwarming to hear the beyond-capacity crowd chant A.J.’S name again and get the genuine feeling of family that was in the room
Now onto TWISTED FUCKING SISTER!! The band starts off their set with an UNBELIEVABLE version of “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)” The first thing that stands out to me is that this is not your normal metal show…I see and hear five guys completely on a mission to absolutely destroy an audience. The next two tracks, “The Kids Are Back” and “Stay Hungry,” are delivered with an intensity that can only be described as vicious. The crowd almost has no idea what to make of this in a day and age where a lot of headline acts are mailing it in. There’s none of that here.
Dee Snider, Good Lord this man is in ridiculous shape. He’s all over the stage and hitting every note completely on point. It makes me insane that every singer/frontman from that era doesn’t learn something from this guy. Jay Jay French and Eddie Ojeda might be the most underrated guitar duo in heavy metal history; these guys know exactly how to play off each other to accentuate the other’s style. Eddie is head down and quietly kicks your ass while Jay Jay spoke to the audience and thanked all the people from the Tri-State area over the course of the band’s history for all their support.
Mark Mendoza still scares the shit out of me. “The Animal” has never had a more fitting nickname. Another underrated player, he pounds along and adds melodic, cool bass fills where they’re necessary. In short, he rules!!! Now onto the man who took an enormous pair of shoes and filled them incredibly…Mike Portnoy. We all know his history and the man is undoubtedly a legend. He filled the role expertly, playing A.J.’s beats perfectly. His enthusiasm and happiness at being part of the family and eagerness to help out completely shined through. The standout part of the night though was “Burn In Hell.” In the middle of the song, the video screen came down and A.J. appeared playing a drum solo from a festival last summer. The crowd went crazy and hung on to every beat…just phenomenal.
TWISTED SISTER really hit on every part of their career during this show. I’ve seen a lot of gigs in my day but no doubt this is in my top three. It was one of those shows where you’re lucky enough to say, “I was there!!!” I know that I’m leaving stuff out but I’m not a pro writer so sue me. But the bottom line is this: If you can get anywhere in the world to see TWISTED SISTER before they retire,GO!!! It was honestly a religious experience and I’m a proud S.M.F!!!
LIVE WORDS: JIM CHINNICI
LIVE PHOTOS: JEFF CRESPI