LIVE (Retro): Twisted Sister & Dokken at Glens Falls Civic Center, 01/19/1986

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35 years ago tonight, New York heavies Twisted Sister played the Glens Falls Civic Center, with LA commercial rockers Dokken in support.  This tour was in support of the ‘Come Out & Play’ album, the late 1985 follow-up to Twisted’s smash ‘Stay Hungry’, which had sold by the millions in 1984, saw the band become MTV video stars on the power of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock”, and lead singer Dee Snider became a household name, testifying in Congressional hearings in opposition to the PMRC, and hosting MTV shows.  So this show was packed, a triumphant gig by a band at the peak of their powers, right?

Not exactly.  I loved their early stuff, but Twisted Sister was a band in sudden, severe decline at the time of this show – although they’d hit big with ‘Stay Hungry’ a couple years earlier, new follow-up ‘Come Out and Play’ wasn’t doing the business.  In retrospect, this was probably because of overexposure, and also because they stepped out by releasing as singles a re-recording of their lame cover of “Leader Of The Pack” (which was a low point the first time around on their debut e.p., and was even worse all polished up), and a corny “anthem” called “Be Chrool To Your Scuel”.   Personally, I went to this show because I still loved the first two records, and the new album had a couple ok songs (“Kill or be Killed”, “Come Out and Play”) – plus Twisted was always a kick-ass live band.


Unsurprisingly, it was a letdown – the opening band (innocuous L.A. metal-lite rockers Dokken) sucked, and Twisted, although being a legendary live band, erred with an anemic song selection, weak choices with not enough of their better, older songs.  To add to the malaise, the show was pretty short (little over an hour), the place was half-empty, and the raw, underdog, rowdy Twisted of old had been defanged to an average arena commercial metal band. This being the mid-80s, there was a giant stage show – a graffiti-covered city block which I guess was kind of cool compared to some of the silly robot and dragon metal stage sets of the day, but it was hard not to think of Sesame Street.

They opened with the title track of the new record, a heavy enough rocker, but instead of the usual second song “The Kids Are Back” (not played that night), they did the cornball “Leader of the Pack” next.  To be sure, there were flashes of the Twisted of old, including a roaring version of first-album classic “Under the Blade”, the always-hefty “Can’t Stop Rock’n’Roll”, and the surprising inclusion of “I Am (I’m Me)”, plus Dee Snider’s “fuck school, fuck work, fuck everything” stage rap.  There was also an extended “I Wanna Rock”, during which they picked fans out of the crowd and invited them up on stage, which ended up being like an extended, heavy-metal ‘The Price is Right’.  But the show was too short, too full of the newer bubblegum anthems instead of the rowdy, fiery metal of old.  They were an arena band now, you’d expect the hits, and I didn’t expect “Tear It Loose” or “Ride to Live”, but the band even omitted surefire crowd-pleaser songs like “Kids Are Back”, “Stay Hungry”, and “Shoot ‘em Down” which would have appealed to some of their metal fans of old.  And the encore was perhaps lamest of all, another new song (“I Know What You Want”), and the power ballad “The Price”, followed by dreadfully corny new single and non-hit “Be Crool to your Scuel”, ending the gig after a mere 12 songs.

Years later I read Dee Snider’s book, and he was pretty honest about what a disaster this era was, and how this tour was canceled before the end due to low ticket sales.

Oddly, six months later they booked another leg of the Come Out & Play tour, and scheduled another local July ’86 show at the Palace Theater in Albany, with Japanese rockers Loudness, and British heavies Raven opening.   I wasn’t too interested in seeing Twisted again, but as a frothing Raven-head, I had to buy a ticket. It was not to be: that gig (and tour) was canceled (again, for lack of interest). The mighty had fallen, and Twisted went even farther down the hair-metal rabbit-hole of irrelevance over the next couple years– 1987’s ‘Love Is For Suckers’ bore little resemblance to the band that had created the propulsive ‘Under The Blade’, but it did not reverse their fortunes, a Palace Theater that year was undersold and the band dissolved soon after. Years later, they re-formed and went back to the fireball live performances and heaviness of their earlier days – I saw them in 2013, and they were crushing.  But this night in ’86, not so much.

TWISTED SISTER setlist:

  • Come Out and Play
  • Leader of the Pack
  • Under the Blade
  • I Believe in Rock ‘n’ Roll
  • You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll
  • I Am (I’m Me)
  • We’re Not Gonna Take It
  • Burn in Hell
  • I Wanna Rock
  • You Want What We Got
  • The Price
  • Be Chrool to Your Scuel.
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