Quebec, Canada August 20, 2011

What seems to be par for the course, I’m stuck here at Gate 31, Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec, Canada (eh?) and every 5 minutes they announce another delay…I think it’s going to be a long road back to Baltimore. I’ve got two loonies in my pocket (wait, that doesn’t sound too good….) and two chocolate bars in my bag, a half a battery left on the laptop and a nice big cuppa of java. Dismal gray and rainy conditions outside mean delays (or as they call it here: “retards” ) but in any case, that will not stop me from my civic duty as your dutiful Twisted journalist.

That’s right….here it comes, my babies….
Bonjour mesdames et messieurs!
c’est maintenant le temps pour l’Armadillo rapport routier officiel avec tous les d├ętails que vous voulez savoir et l’abondance que vous ne faites pas. (how was that? not too bad, eh?)

Ladies and gentlemen, it is now time for the Official Armadillo Road Report, with all the details you want to know and plenty ya’ don’t!

The concert day was a disruptive one for me. Primarily because as someone who lives with anxiety disorder on a daily basis, my normal routines were completely disrupted. I’ve learned to deal with this, which means that I have to internally acknowledge that I feel discomfort, but I do not allow it to interfere with my ability to function. That said, every Twisted road trip begins with a “packing ritual”–and the obligatory “re-packing” ritual. Somewhere between Oulu and the States, my Twisted Sister bandanna–the pink and black hankerchief I’ve worn to every show since 1986–is missing.

And so instead of packing and getting a good night’s sleep, I was up the whole night searching for the bandanna, which is still missing in action. This was particularly distressful–and I had to finally force myself to accept that I will be able enjoy a show without it, and that nothing terrible will happen as a result.

My arrival in Quebec was a bit more adventurous than I had planned–due to a hotel glitch, I didn’t have my room available and smoke-free as arranged, and so a stroll over to the sold out Twisted host hotel led me to slap down the credit card and pony up for the only available room–an executive level suite. Government workers don’t exactly earn a king’s ransom, so I tried to savor every minute because unless my book….and screenplay….and movie rights…(I can dream, leave me alone…) do well, I doubt I will ever see a room like that again.

Alright, that said, I did spend a hour or so walking through Old Quebec, which as I posted earlier, was simply delightful. Jay Jay and I grabbed a spot of lunch, and we chatted about the tour….and not very anticipated end thereof….as well as a sundry of other things not appropriate for publishing. I met some truly lovely fans outside, who patiently awaited the arrival of the band in Canada, and were treated to a few quick autographs and a photo with Dee. A special “allo!” to Cindy, Andy, Gilles and Denys. Proof that Twisted has the nicest fans in the world. Merci mes amis!

Due to my late arrival in Quebec, I missed the morning ride to the venue with the crew, and opted to spend a casual afternoon chatting it up with fellow fans. As a result, I missed a spectacular sound check of “Highway to hell”–hopefully DCT can fill us in on the details on that one–a short taxi ride took me to the Quebec Expo, where the huge 100-year festival was underway. Like so many dates on this reunion tour, the festival was a carnival atmosphere, complete with games, rides and carney-fare, which normally, I won’t touch with a ten-foot pole, but when I see a booth with the word “Patisserie” (Bakery/Pastries), there is simply no way I can resist. I opted to bypass the “Poutine” –the local Quebec treat– a large plate of french fries, covered with crumbles of cheese of some sort I’ve never seen before, covered with heavy gravy. I almost went for it….but I had visions of my cardiologist saying “You ate what?????!!!”

I walked past the husbandry (Didn’t see any…but the livestock fragrance is unmistakeable) and came upon the “Colisee Pepsi”–yes, the Pepsi colliseum. Envison here, next to the Pepsi Pavillion building, a large open parking lot with an impressive covered stage, an elevated platform for the light board, and sound board underneath (both covered to protect from the elements), and an interesting crowd arrangement.

Stage right and left, on the far wings of the lot, were two sets of stadium seating. From Eddie to Jay Jay’s microphone, was general admission. From Dee’s mic to halfway to Mark’s Mic, was VIP standing, and an entire front section of wheelchairs and those with mobility challenges. One of the best handicapped sections I’ve ever seen–kudos Quebec! Then, about twenty feet back, the rest of general admission. Our “Spinal Tap” moment of the night–to the left, was a go-cart race track–so as Twisted played, little go-carts buzzed around the tires. It added ambiance…that little something….or as they say, it was that “je ne sais quoi” element….

The lighting was vequally well-thought out–two huge swivel spot lights on each side, and a very nice array of colored lights, strobes and spots. Even the soundboard was beautifully and aesthetically lit. Overall, my impression was that this was an extremely organized, professional and well-run festival. Every last detail seemed polished and smooth–extremely attentive and polite security, helpful event staff–if I had ONE complaint…. I could not find the merch tent! When I asked, no one seemed to know–apparently it was quite well-visited, and the line was so long that most mistook it for the beer tent next door. The only thing missing was the TS banner–a very large beer banner was hanging in its place, obviously a sponsor of the festival.

I made my way to the front, pastry in hand, and chatted with some very nice fans, including a delightful couple who were, shall we call it…..seasoned. It was actually very refreshing to see that there are still folks who can rock out with the best of them, even in their 50’s and 60’s. Of course, it’s equally as wonderful to see youngsters excited about seeing Twisted, and one young fan in attendance named Guillaume–“mini-Dee”…or as I’ve coined “Gee Snider”, who looked exactly like “big Dee” after you’ve run Dee through the hot cycle on the dryer. Oh please, I’m 5’2″. I’m allowed.

I did feel a bit…..naked. Without my trademark bandanna, and I left my colors vest at the hotel since it was threatening rain, it just felt odd to be without my “armor.” Of course in mother nature’s world, it is the armor that an armadillo sports that ultimately causes its demise. (too slow to cross the road, and then they get spooked and vertically jump into the chassis of the car overhead. sad but true.)
ah. I digress.

The band took the stage just minutes past 9:00pm–and it was just how I like it–no opening band, no comedians, no cookie-monster local acts–just Twisted Sister. And who stood onstage to bring the boys out? Why it was Gee Snider–mini-Dee–soaking up the crowd accolades. What a cool kid!

Interestingly, the Quebec fans were reminiscent of the Vancouver fans–not only extremely well-behaved, but dare I say it? Reserved? What I PROFOUNDLY enjoyed, however, was the one-foot invisible forcefield that surrounded me–not only did I not have to worry about someone dripping sweat on me or using my head as a beer coaster, I was untouched the whole show.

When “Long Way to the Top” blared through the speakers, the crowd was still noticeable quiet, and our own Danny Stanton tried to get the crowd fired up. Twisted opened, as they have been, with “What You Don’t Know,” which really is the proverbial opener song, and it absolutely rocked. One of the joys of being up close is that you can really feel the energy being emitted from the band. “WYDK” was just furious, arm-pumping, bass-thumping, drum crashing goodness.

At this point, there were so many photographers in the pit, it resemble more of a Kardashian popparazzi spotting than a Twisted show, but fortunately, they were history after three songs and we had an unobstructed view.

“The Kids Are Back” is another fave of mine, and it did not disappoint last night. The sound was absolutely fantastic–and from talking to fans who were all the way in the back, there were no complaints anywhere. They did have some interference issues due to a nearby military base. I’m not sure how to explain it since I’m neither a sound man or a rock musician, but on a few songs, it sounded like there was a delay–such that one guitar was playing on a different line. The bass also would cut in and out, but it wasn’t so distracting that it lessened the performance.

There were a lot of mic stand drops–and at one point, the roadies were engaged in doing guitar work, and almost missed the now prone mic stand. Dee was just about to pick it up himself when one the roadies swooped in. You know, I’ve always said that I would have made a great ball boy at Wimbledon…and it’s not radically different from being the mic-roadie….you’ve got to pay attention, be fast on your feet and be able to dash across without Animal catching you. One of these days, I swear, Animal is gonna catch one!

Dee shared that five years ago, TS played Quebec to the biggest crowd they’ve ever seen–“more than 80,000 headbanging muthafuckas”– and it was obvious that now they were “back to get their asses kicked again!”

Now mind you, this was a State Fair–read: family event–and so Dee solemnly promised to do his best to avoid the “f-bombs”–he tried to get the crowd to fill in the blanks, but I’m not sure they quite got it. Seriously, these fans were very polite!

“Stay Hungry” was a crowd favorite as usual, and as I looked to the wings of the stage, I saw our DCT rocking out on one side….and over to the other, was Suzette, Dee’s wonderful significant other, and the most adoreable little blonde two-year old girl, who I kid you not, was dancing, swaying, and fist-throwing. Yes, I’m sorry, but “Little Dee” is not the youngest Twisted Sister fan–that distinction goes to Dee and Suzette’s granddaughter. (SCARY–I remember when Jesse was 2! I’m in denial that he has a 2-year old of his own!)
“Captain Howdy” gave us an excellent solo from Eddie, who was having a really good hair day, by the way. (Those of us without hair notice these things. ) In fact, the guitar work last night was really supreme–very few errors, tight solos, and just a really nice cohesiveness–even in spite of all the weird hiccups from the military base.

The crowd was relaxed, and the band seemed very at ease as well. Some shows are intense….some filled with challenges that can make it feel tense at times….other shows are silly and festive. This was one of those light-hearted silly shows where it looked like the boys in black and pink were just having a really good time.

During “You Can’t Stop Rock N’ Roll,” Eddie motioned for the fans to pump it up–the place was absolutely packed, fans all the way to back gate. Not sure of the numbers–a security guard speculated maybe 10,000 but it sure seemed like more. Jay Jay’s solo during YCSRNR was just fantastic–felt very fluid and flowing. Afterwards, Animal joined Eddie in telling the crowd to make some noise and raise the roof–and to the crowd’s credit, whatever was asked of them, they happily obliged.

That’s the odd thing about this crowd–they weren’t over the top–they cheered when Dee asked them to cheer, rock when asked to rock, etc. But when you compare it to the pure religious zeal of the South American and Greek shows, well, it was just different. Don’t get me wrong–I love Canada and the Canadian fans–it’s just like comparing apples and oranges.

Jay Jay took the mic to say a few words, and thanked the Canadians for making “Stay Hungry” one of the top 5 best-selling heavy metal albums in Canada. He took his usual crowd snap-shot–so here’s hoping we’ll see it on the website soon. From what he tells me, that crowd was rockin’ it all the way to the warning track. He showed off his tattoo touch-up job (very nice!) and as he delivered his soliloquy on American Idol, Dee laid across the drum riser in the background, a cross between a pin-up girl and Mae West.

They then launced into “The Fire Still Burns”–I don’t have a lot of favorite songs off of “Come Out and Play”–I like the title track and “King of the Fools,” but I very seldom listen to that album. “The Fire Still Burns” however, is one of the heavier tracks, and they really knocked this one out of the (amusement) park. Eddie, lit in a very tasteful orange glow–thank you, Mr. Lighting Techie–delivered a blistering performance and his duo with Jay Jay was a real treat.

Then came MY treat of the night. Jay Jay explained to me that as they prepared the setlist for the evening, he looked at the top songs downloaded in Canada. And unlike in the States, where every download is some variation of “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” with a “Burn in Hell” tossed in, one of the top Canadian downloads? “Like a Knife in the Back” A Quebec fan recently wrote Jay Jay and asked if they would play it….Jay pitched the idea to Dee…and Voila! It was thunderous! I have wanted to hear this live for so long, that I could hardly beleive my ears.

Finally, the crowd really came to life during “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” I mean, really, whether you’re old school or not, this song just gets you moving. There were still a few more problems with the bass cutting in and out, at the end of it, Animal add a little extra, and motioned that it was for a fan in the front. Think of as putting english on a cue ball–it’s what we call in Baltimore, “a little sumptin’ sumptin’ for ya”

The crowd was now involved–and demonstrated their willingness, as so many cities before them, that they would not be outshined during the a cappella sing-a-long. Prompting a “bueno” from Dee…. uhhh….Dee? That was six or seven shows ago….last night, it was “tres bon!” Dee stopped for a moment and pointed to “Little Dee”, exclaiming “Don’t YOU look AWESOME! I oughta bring back that look!”

Dee then re-told the “Wheelchair” story, which incidentally, aired for a Canadian tv-show “Best Story Ever”. Most of you should already know his “best story ever…” but I’ll post the link here in case you don’t. In any case, he acknowledged the very packed wheel chair section, that was rocking so frickin’ hard, I kid you not, I thought some of those chairs were gonna start flying. It was incredible! Go Quebec!

Dee announced that a long-time friend of the band and former crewman, Marty, passed away just hours before they took the stage. They dedicated “The Price” to him–our thoughts, of course, are with all of his family, friends and the band. Eddie’s solo during “The Price” was spot-on. Dee sang “The Price” with soul and raw emotion, and while I don’t know what it looked like from the stage, it seemed to me like the crowd was feeling it too.
“Shoot ’em Down” was thunderous–

I need to say a few words here, about our own Mr. Mendoza. Truly, I don’t know how he does it. The pounding that he gives that bass–something’s gotta give! I mean, either the strings will break (he assures me that bass strings are very hard to break….and he likes playing a set with old strings) or the bass is gonna crack in half…or Animal’s fingers are gonna slice clean off! It’s remarkable, and the sound of his bass on “Shoot ’em Down’ was nothing short of a religious experience. And he did a little extra fancy “fingerwork” that I’m sure I can even adequately do it justice….it was jazz, man, pure jazz.

I looked over during “Shoot ’em Down” and Dee’s granddaughter was just bopping along. Seriously–Dee is just plain the coolest fucking grandfather ever. Can you just imagine this kid at show-and-tell?
“So what did you this summer, boys and girls?”
“My granddaddy took me to the zoo and bought me a balloon.”
“My granddaddy took me to Disneyland and we rode the teacups”
“Well…my MY Granddaddy took me to Quebec where I got to rock out on the side of the stage as he andTwisted Sister kicked the booties of 10,000 fans”

Okay…back to the music.

“Burn In Hell,” which is arguably the third most popular Twisted Sister song, was another house favorite. We had some spooky lighting…we had some growly voices….we had some fog…. oh wait, that was the pot smoke from the fans behind me. Let me tell you, NOW I understand that whole french fries with cheese and gravy thing! I had second hand munchies like nobody’s business.

We had a full drum solo too–extra crash cymbol with a side helping of cowbell. Those red lazer sticks were working overtime! What I especially loved was seeing Dee get himself fired up on the sidelines during the drum solo–which lead into what the crew and band call: “Burn In Hell-reprise”. Afterward, Dee pointed out his grand-daughter, now in Mark’s arms onstage. She looked terrified–not sure if that was due to the huge cheering crowd…or Animal…..but Dee announced that “Am I the coolest fucking grandfather or what??!!?” See ? I told you–I already scribbled those exact words six notepages ago. Dee then dedicated “I Wanna Rock” to her, and the place went crazy.

Dee expressed his relief that unlike last time, he didn’t have a restaurant full of confused and slightly annoyed diners next to the stage. (no, Dee, instead there were kids on little lawn mowers racing around a tire track….but nevermind…) Dee asked the crowd to rock….and they delivered the goods. As Dee said, “It’s so easy…a trained dog could do it….” I say “I WANNA ROCK!…and you say…..ROCK!”

From my low altitude, I couldn’t tell the crowd volume, but the band told me it was loud, even prompting an appreciative “Shit….” from Dee, and the band gave the fans a round of applause of their own.”

Another little kudos to the lightman, Marty. He gave us a blue pulsating light on “I Wanna Rock” that was very nice, and worked really well to accentuate the drum and bass line. Dee then asked if he could dim the lights “for dramatic effect..” Followed by a very silly little Dee tangent of “Well, it seemed obvious….” Then commenting on the lack of ambiance, he commented (towards the lighting tech) along the lines of, man, I’d hate to make love to you dude…wouldn’t want to be in your bedroom….and then literally, he cracked himself up. It was one of those special friviolities. Then he forced himself to “focus Dee!” and regain his composure to finish the song.

They performed two encores–“Come Out and Play”–played very tightly and then something I was not suspecting at all……change of encore! Instead of S.M.F., they knocked out an absolutely blistering rendition of “Under The Blade.” I scrambled to pull out my notepad to scratch in the change–and I caught Jay Jay motioning to me to be sure to write it down. He later informed me that to the best of his recollection, the band has NEVER closed with “Under The Blade.” There you go, Quebec. Twisted Sister’s ultimate “merci beaucoup!”

Even the band intros were a bit unique–“All 5 freakin’ original members!” Freakin? Well, it was still PG rated, I suppose. Dee reminded the crowd that this was no ordinary task “Ringo ain’t the Beatles!” and did a quick re-telling of how Mark brought a gun to the first day of the band reunion rehearsal.

Lastly…Jay Jay introduced “Dee freakin’ Snider” ….there was a lotta freakin’ freakin’ going on….as the man who has inspired Bette Midler….Christine Aguillera…and Lady Gaga… the man the British press described as “Sarah Jessica Parker dropped in a vat of acid”… ladies and gentleman, Dee Snider: “the hardest working man in show business.”

No road report would be complete without the “Douchebag of the Night” award. I have no idea what this guy did, but during the last encore, he had three security guards dragging him off, and they had to choke-hold before he stopped fighting. Well, 10,000 or so fans….there’s bound to be one…and at least he wasn’t using my dome as a beer coaster.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and Quebec was a just perfect show. Great sound and lighting, a thrillingly new setlist, wonderful fans and a top notch production. Afterwards, we had some post-show pizza and libations, leading me to once again, be the harbinger of doom.

All good things must come to an end…including the reunion tour. I pleaded with Jay Jay….please….Don’t let it end in Colorado! Don’t let it end at some random festival in Grand Junction, thousand miles away from the clubs where it all started.

Jay Jay enjoys watching me squirm, taunting me with it “this might be it” comments. We shared our thoughts about how it should end, and came up with the concept of “Twisted Shiva” Sorry–Jay and I had a Jew-bonding moment.

That’s right–Twisted shiva–where they play the last show, then for the week after, we all sit in mourning on wooden crates– tearing our black clothing, eating tons of deli trays and cookies and we lament the end of Twisted Sister.

It could happen. Shit, I’ll host.

And as Jay Jay pointed out, like the end of “The Sopranos”, you never know when it’s gonna end….all of a sudden…BOOM! that’s it. it’s over. could happen any show. even Colorado.

So my babies, if they announce a New York show, you’d best get your butt there, because when it’s over, it’s over, and all you’ll have left is a ringing in your ears and a deli platter.

With that, I am NOW sitting in the Philadelphia airport. My flight was cancelled…and every flight to Baltimore is now delayed or canceled. So instead of getting home at 4:30pm today, they are telling me that I may not get home until tomorrow. Oh joy. How baffling–the 15 hours of flight from Finland got me home sooner than my 3 hours of flight travel from Quebec. Alas, such is the life of a Twisted Sister road reporter.

And so until next week, this is Armadillo, your faithful blogger, trotting off to see if I can rent a car and DRIVE the rest of the way home….


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