There are certain events that happen in our lives and while we don’t always remember the dates we can remember how it went down. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how the first thing I saw when checking into Facebook on a Friday in March of 2015 was a photo and post from my brother from another mother TattooTony about the passing of AJ Pero. I remember instantly texting TattooTony cause I couldn’t believe what my eyes saw only to have it confirmed. So when Twisted Sister announced their only Tri-State Area show and that it was to benefit AJ‘s family I bought tickets the moment they were available.
Growing up in the New York Area in the 1980s you couldn’t escape Twisted Sister on radio and of course I became a fan. Sadly I never saw them live until the show this past Saturday because of my schedule whenever Twisted Sister played a show here in recent years, after all they only did a handful of shows a year and no area was guaranteed to see them. So while I never saw AJ Pero play with them I did see tons of live video of Twisted Sister and I saw him play with Adrenaline Mob. And while in my head I knew Mike Portnoy was the perfect fit behind the drums I was a tiny bit worried going into the show.
That worry was quickly put away once Twisted Sister hit the stage. Mike Portnoy didn’t just step in to do his thing on drums, he learned what AJ did. During the pure adrenaline rushing set of Twisted Sister classics Dee Snider took a moment to explain how Mike watched video and listened to any and all recordings he could get his hands on to do exactly what AJ would do. That was Mike Portnoy‘s way of not only doing right by the fans but also to pay tribute to AJ Pero the best way he could.
And don’t think the rest of the band took the night off. When you hear members of Twisted Sister say in interviews that they’re goal is to bring their top game to every show they do just that. The energy brought to the stage by Dee Snider is maddening. The man is 60 fucking years old and makes the younger singers who stand behind a mic like a crutch look more cripple than me. He is easily one of the most underrated live performers of the rock and metal world.
And the same goes for the rest of the band. Eddie Ojeda, Mark “The Animal” Mendoza, and Jay Jay French. They’re great and talented musicians who have been underrated by the media and some of the rock and metal community because they’re from the “Hair Bands” era. There’s some amazing songs by Twisted Sister on the albums over the years besides the obvious one everyone knows. Hearing “The Price” and “The Beast” as well as “I Am (I’m Me)” live was just mind blowing. Songs I’ve loved for years taken to an all new level for me.
And the big surprise was during “Burn In Hell“, another favorite of mine, when the drum solo time came and it was video of AJ Pero doing his drum solo. Not Mike Portnoy, AJ still part of the show all because they happened to get video of one of his solos at the end of 2014. A moment which brought both tears and chills to everyone in Starland Ballroom as we all chanted “AJ! AJ!”
While I wish I would’ve seen Twisted Sister when AJ Pero was alive but I’m glad I was in house to see tribute paid to him right in his home area.