REVIEW AND PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA
Porispere festival, now held for the sixth time, has gradually grown into one of the most significant festivals in Finland. Although Porispere is still unable to compete financially against the bigger festivals, they have captured a couple of very interesting artists every year. This year, those were the two US metal bands – Metal Church and Twisted Sister. Porispere’s main idea has always been trying to please everyone. And because of that, the festival’s supply was, at the very least, peculiar. There were artists from all genres, starting from Finland’s leading pop stars, schlager and rap artists, children’s bands to metal bands. Although there were a couple of other interesting names at the festival, like Children of Bodom, I only reviewed the legends.
These US metal veterans have gone through many changes during their 30 plus year careers. However, the only remaining founding member Kurdt Vanderhoof has always managed to lead the band ahead. On April 30, 2015, Metal Church announced that former singer Mike Howe had rejoined some 21 years after leaving the band. With Howe, the band released such metal classics as BLESSING THE DISGUISE (1989) and THE HUMAN FACTOR (1991). Their latest album, XI, was released in March 2016, and it has become the band’s highest chart position ever.
It was great to see that there were not only old school metalheads but also a lot of younger people in the crowd when the band opened up with “Fake Healer.” It seemed that the band itself was a little surprised about the crowd’s response which was very good and loud. The third song, “Start the Fire,” from the band’s eponymous debut, melted the hearts of doubters, if there was any. Personally, I was a little bit skeptical regarding how Howe would fit back in the band after such a long break. What makes this situation even more interesting is that after he quit with the band in 1995, he also quit everything related to music. He never joined any bands or performed after that, so it would not be easy for anybody to come back after that. But my fears were proved all wrong. Although Howe’s hair is now short, his high octane voice is still there, and he’s maybe even more energetic of a performer than he was back in the day. It’s good to see that older musicians still keep up their shape after all these years.
It seemed that Vanderhoof and the whole band have now found some extra energy from Howe’s return. The band has recharged its batteries and a difference between today’s appearance and the previous Finland show, two years ago at Tuska with the former vocalist Ronny Munroe, was conspicuous. The setlist was built upon the original Howe era, including songs from all three albums. The new album XI was present with two tracks. It was great to see that many recognized “No Tomorrow” and sang along with the song. Of course, a couple of mandatory classics from the early days were included as well. Out of all songs, the oldie “Watch The Children Pray” and Howe era “Badlands” received the best response, but the atmosphere was pretty good through the set.
The future looks good for Metal Church. The band is in good shape, and many positive things are coming up, like the US tour with Megadeth in the fall. Hopefully, the band keeps up the good work, and we’ll see them again soon.
Start the Fire
Gods of Second Chance
Date with Poverty
Watch the Children Pray
Killing Your Time
Beyond the Black
The Human Factor
My first encounter with Twisted Sister took place in 1984 when I saw the “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video from TV. I was completely blown away by it, and the next logical step was to go to the local record store and buy STAY HUNGRY on vinyl. The album was, in my opinion, and still is, one of the most important hard rock albums of all time. COME OUT AND PLAY was released a year later. I remember that I hated the “Leader of the Pack,” but the album was still cool as hell, especially because of its super cool Dee Snider pop-up cover. That year, the band also played the first time in Finland, but I did not get there. When LOVE IS FOR SUCKERS was published in 1987, the band gradually disappeared from public view. Although I liked the album, it seemed that I was almost alone with my opinion. It was not surprising that the band broke up soon, and the game was over.
Later on, I followed Dee Snider’s new bands, such as Desperado and the Widowmaker, and there’s a lot of solid material on those albums. In 1998, I finally saw Dee Snider performing live for the first time when S.M.F Snider’s band played a sold-out gig at Tavastia Club in Helsinki. It is still one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. In 2001, Snider appeared in Sweden Rock as a solo artist, and A.J Pero was the band’s drummer. Two years later started Twisted Sister’s reunion, and the band’s first official show was, of course, at Sweden Rock. I think I saw the band more than ten times during the following years, and they never let me down.
In March 2015, the music world heard the shocking news. A.J. Pero was dead. A month later, the band announced that they would do the final tour, called the “Forty And Fuck It,” in 2016. The drummer on tour was going to be Mike Portnoy (Winery Dogs, Transatlantic- ex-Dream Theater, etc.) whose amazing at drumming and a long-time fan of the band.
It was great that the band arrived in Finland one more time. It was also great that the band played in Porisphere instead of some Finnish major festival. The crowd, whose size was approximately between 5000 to 6000, went crazy when the AC / DC’s “Long Way to the Top” (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll) began to sound from the speakers. Everyone knew what is going to happen next. The show was truly rocking from the moment when the band took the stage opened up with energetic “Stay Hungry” followed by “The Kids Are Back” and “Burn in Hell.”
It is still amazing to follow Snider’s performance. He sounds excellent, and his energy and charisma are as vital as ever. Snider may be in his early 60’s, but he sure did rock hard like he was still in his 20’s at the band’s final tour. The rest of the band, guitarists Jay Jay French, Eddie Ojeda, and Mark Mendoza, weren’t that active, not even close to Snider, but they played damn tight and seemed to enjoy being on stage. Behind the kit, we had Mike Portnoy, who doesn’t need much introduction here. He did a great job behind the drums and played the songs the way A.J. used to play them originally. This was Twisted Sister gig, not Portnoy’s, and he respected that 100%. In my opinion, he stayed even too much in the background because he did not even have proper lighting or spotlight during the show.
French took control of the microphone for a moment after “You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll.” He talked briefly about the band’s early days and criticized today’s music scene and business. He also touched briefly our recently deceased heroes and mentioned Pero, Jimmy Bain, and Lemmy by name. “Why continue like Lemmy, who basically took his last breath on stage”? The band then dedicated “The Fire Still Burns” to these legends. A couple of songs later, Snider called for the stage lights off and asked the audience to hold up their lighters or cell phones. Then the band next started “The Price” and dedicated it to the memory of A.J Pero. It was definitely an emotional moment and a great way to show the band’s respect for their late friend.
The band played a very eclectic set, which contained all the standard Twisted Sister tunes like “Destroyer,” “I Am (I’m Me),” “Under The Blade,” and the mandatory anthems “I Wanna Rock” and “We Not Gonna Take It.” The show was ended with “Come Out and Play” and the perennial closing song, “S.M.F.”
At that point, I realized that this was indeed the last time when Twisted Sister played in Finland. It felt strange but also good and bad at the same time. I still consider them to be one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, and I will miss them, but on the other hand, I think it is better to go out at the top when there is a chance. In a way, it is admirable that the band managed and built its whole post-reunion career around four albums, which have been released more than 30 years ago (They never play anything from SUCKERS, so I do not count it in). When the band returned in 2001, they promised that there would never be a new Twisted Sister album. And there wasn’t. It must be respected because, as everyone has seen and heard, reunion albums, which are established after a long break, have rarely been successful.
I have seen Twisted Sister many times through the years, and they have always exceeded my expectations. And they did not disappoint this time either because the show was absolutely awesome and entertaining. The band sounded beyond amazing, and the setlist surely pleased the majority of the audience. The pyrotechnics, background screen, and lightning were spot on; everything worked perfectly. There is nothing to complain about but one thing. Because this was the last tour, and I’m a longtime follower, I was hoping to hear some rarely played material too. Something such as “Be Cruel to Your School” or “Sin After Sin” or just anything from LOVE IS FOR SUCKERS would have made this show even better.
But fuck that….
THANK YOU, TWISTED “FUCKIN’” SISTER!!!!
The Kids Are Back
Burn in Hell
Like a Knife in the Back
You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll
The Fire Still Burns
I Am (I’m Me)
We’re Not Gonna Take It
I Believe in Rock ‘n’ Roll
Under the Blade
I Wanna Rock
Come Out and Play