Marilyn Manson

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Concert Review by Mark Bayross

London Docklands Arena – 24 January 2001

Marilyn Manson’s return to London has been nothing if not victorious. Now that the dust has settled after the Columbine tragedy, he has re-emerged, stronger than ever, and apparently determined to get back to what he does best – putting on a damn good show.

But before the main event, we have sterling support in the form of Manson’s first signings to his Posthuman label, Godhead, and nu-metal sensations Disturbed. One look at Godhead and it immediately becomes obvious what caught Manson’s attention. Shaven-headed singer Jason Miller does a good job looking like a cross between Billy Corgan and Uncle Fester, while the rest of the band carry off the scary-goth-spider look admirably.

The music is equally dark, of course. The thumping beats and heavy guitars may be nothing new, but Miller possesses a powerful voice and their debut album 2000 YEARS OF HUMAN ERROR, almost all of which they play tonight, contains some real gems. Their vampiric cover of ELEANOR RIGBY produces puzzled looks on the faces of the uninitiated, but they pull it off well, infusing a sense of real foreboding in Lennon and McCartney’s composition.

Disturbed arrive onstage to the sound of a barrage of cartoon swearing, “South Park” style, and it seems that the infamous electric chair has made it through customs this time around. As singer David Draiman is frazzled in one of rock’s more unintentionally “Spinal Tap” moments, smoke fills the stage, before he leaps up and the band launch into THE SICKNESS. The rhythm section is tight and Dan Donegan’s guitar is a wall of feral noise, but it’s the imposing frame of the shaven-headed Draiman that holds the attention.

Much has been written about Draiman’s voice and tonight it proves to be Disturbed’s most distinctive asset. There are far too many Korn wannabes vying for an audience these days, and the variety of Draiman’s vocal delivery at least manages to set them apart from the rest. Shifting from Tool-esque anguish to a full-on howl, with moments of rap thrown in between, he gives the songs a fluid, vital feel, twisting the music into unpredictable shapes. They play their cover of Tears For Fears’ SHOUT and Draiman spends his time between songs egging the crowd on. The sound of thousands of people shouting “We are Disturbed” obviously still tickles him pink. They finish with the bone-crushing STUPIFY, and leave the stage, a job well done.

Enter Marilyn Manson, the most vilified man in music, draped in an enormous curtain that covers the entire stage, to the eerie tinkling of the piano part of COUNT TO SIX AND DIE. The lights come on and the band launch into a furious, strobe-enhanced “Irresponsible Hate Anthem”. Wow – some entrance! Seeing Marilyn Manson in front of you in person is quite an odd feeling – he has succeeded in developing iconic status, as a hero or anti-hero depending on your stance, and now seems larger than life. The rest of the band seem just as cartoonish, especially keyboard player Madonna “Pogo” Wayne Gacy, whose instrument is perched atop a large zebedee spring so, when he gives it one of his regular kicks, it bounces right back.

Two songs from latest album HOLY WOOD follow – THE DEATH SONG and DISPOSABLE TEENS (with its baby-on-a-cross single cover as a 40 foot high backdrop), then GREAT BIG WIDE WORLD and TOURNIQUET (performed on stilts, of course). Up until now, Manson hasn’t said a word to the crowd – most unlike him – but he introduces THE FIGHT SONG with a quick bit of crowd control: “How many of you have waited all year, all month or all week to tell somebody to fuck….OFF!!? Well, now’s your chance…” After a respectable amount of targets have been told where to go by thousands of people (including the Queen “seeing as we’re in London”), the band unleash their new single with aplomb.

After THE FIGHT SONG, LUNCHBOX, as usual, gives Maz the chance to bait a member of the audience, on this occasion rounding on some foolhardy individual who saw fit to throw his shoe at his mooning backside. Dragging said unfortunate out of the crowd with a cry of “Who here wants to see me buttfuck this guy?”, the God of Fuck proceeds to illustrate the rationale behind this title in the direction of the victim’s head. Hmm. Manson wouldn’t be Manson without a bit of public sexual degradation, would he?

The audience humiliation part out of the way, the hits then come thick and fast – ROCK IS DEAD, THE DOPE SHOW, oldie CAKE AND SODOMY and the cover that Marilyn Manson has really made his own, SWEET DREAMS. The props also come out for a succession of cuts from HOLY WOOD: Manson performs CRUCI-FICTION IN SPACE towering 30 feet above the audience on a telescopic platform like some kind of giant demonic doll; he belts out VALENTINE’S DAY dressed as a bishop behind an altar with skulls on either end; and for THE LOVE SONG, out comes the trusty old fascist podium, this time decked out in red with huge crosses of guns hanging behind it.

They finish with THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE, but it’s not long before the band are back for the encore – 1996, with its anthemic “anti-christ superstar” chorus, fits the bill perfectly. For some reason, though, Mazza gets the hump halfway through and, hurling his mike stand at a speaker stack, accidentally disconnects Pogo’s keyboard before storming offstage. Twiggy Ramirez and the rest of the band soldier on, Pogo, searching around frantically for the stray plug, but, before long, the song ends and the band have no option but to go for the wall of feedback / trash your instruments finale, and the lights go up.

Whether Manson had genuinely lost his rag or was putting it on for show, the performance seemed to end somewhat abruptly, but I don’t think anyone could call the show disappointing. Slick, powerful and totally thrilling, Marilyn Manson, the band and the man, certainly delivered tonight. When you add to that the quality of the support bands, what we had here was a rollicking evening.