Marilyn Manson informed the crowd at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Tuesday night that the police had warned him not to advocate drug use and “anal sex” but the only people that bought that were likely the people who were on more drugs than Manson, and that was likely a very few people. Manson was an odd, withered and simultaneously bloated version of himself. I would be surprised if the Glens Falls Police know that Manson still exists.
I was actually surprised that the 14-year-old kid in front of me knew who he was and that he was horrified when I told him that Manson was actually going on before Rob Zombie. I felt for the teen because there was a time in my life I would have been enraged by such an indignity for Manson—that the one-time, seemingly-intelligent fame manipulator with a hard-on for Bowie would wind up opening for the cartoonish Zombie.
But for that I apologize; see, in 1996 I was a fan of Marilyn Manson. There, I said it.
I was a part of the adoring teenage throbs that idolized Manson when he stormed into town to play the RPI Field House back in the day, followed by hordes of protesting religious groups, groupies and law enforcement. I heard the cries of parents who were sure someone was going to die, or that Manson was going to force himself on their young son and daughter, or who had heard that Manson killed chickens, manifested Satan, fellated his band mates or otherwise did very illegal and horrific things on stage. I was in on the joke even then—I just fell easy for provocateurs with guitars.
The only real equivalent to what Manson was exists today not in music but in film. Manson was what Sascha Baron Cohen was briefly—a man who taps into the core of America’s dirty laundry and turns it back on them to make mom and dad terribly uncomfortable.
Having said that, we know that Mr. Cohen ran his course—his latest movie, The Dictator, is proof that Cohen could only get away with the act for so long before everyone caught on. Now he has to tell stories about how the police chased him because everyone, including law enforcement, is on to the shtick.
Both men could have continued at the very highest levels of stardom if the work they produced after their outings had been thoughtful, well-constructed and original. Neither man’s work has been. Did I just say “has been”? Because that is exactly what Manson was on Tuesday night as he croaked and spoke through a series of B-sides, covers and a couple of hits.
A review of the set as a whole proves that Manson never actually wrote a good song in his life. His hits have come from covers, two of which he played that night: Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” and the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.” His other hits, like “Mobscene,” is the re-purposed Faith No More Track “Be Aggressive,” and “Beautiful People” was from the Antichrist Superstar album, predominantly written by Trent Reznor.
The only thing frightening or dangerous about Manson’s performance on Tuesday was just how inebriated or drugged-out he appeared to be. His words were slurred, he stuttered and stammered while talking to the audience, and his segues between songs came off as non-sequitors, like a crazy person coming up to you on the street and saying, “I killed the president! Nice weather we are having, isn’t it.” Manson had set and costume changes for every song but, as they say, “you can dress up a turd. . .” Manson seemed trapped in a show that should have ended a long time ago.
The only bit of honesty crept out of Manson’s broken voice when he introduced “The Dope Show.” “Don’t do drugs, stay in school, I swear to god!” I felt like he really meant it, lost up on stage. If Manson was, in fact, on drugs, it didn’t seem like they could have been good ones. Probably something like bath salts—not a good high. At one point, Manson commented that “this is the part where the guy from the newspaper says I forgot the lyrics,” adding that it was his song and he can make up any lyrics he wants. Manson was actually a journalist and reviewer at one point. So, if the drugs aren’t working all that well, he probably has a decent idea of how badly he is sucking each night, and how horrible his last few albums have been. It must really hurt to be Marilyn Manson. I felt genuinely bad for him—not the way you want to feel at a glam, arena rock show.
Rob Zombie took the stage with better sound quality and fancier props—big digital screens, a robot/zombie monster thingy—some poor jackoffs dressed as monsters with pumpkin heads. If Manson is Sascha Baron Cohen then Zombie (who is actually a film director) is Kevin Smith—a dumb fan boy who is so steeped in a culture of fandom that he can regurgitate working parts of that culture at will. Zombie’s formula—make reference to a horror film, reference serial killer, deliver four-word catch-phrase, say “Yeah!,” add more “Yeahs” to taste—went off without a hitch. A hitch or two would have been more exciting.
No amount of props, fire, confetti and costumes could cover for Zombie’s pencil-thin voice. That deep growl you hear on Rob Zombie tunes on the radio? Yeah, about that . . . it doesn’t seem to actually be his.
The backing tracks would thunder a guttural “Hey yeah!” during “Super Beast,” but when Zombie actually sang, he sounded like a member of the Chipmunks. His stage routine consisted of doing a move you may have seen Mark Walberg deliver in his underwear in Boogie Nights, half “I know Kung-Fu” and half show-girl kick.
A good section of Zombie’s set relied heavily on his first solo disc but he couldn’t keep up with the rap-rock-influenced vocal delivery, shooting the microphone out to the crowd for help. “Living Dead Girl” and “More Human Than Human” came quickly and got the crowd moving but the tunes seemed mostly propelled by backing tracks—opener DJ Starscream of Slipknot could be seen in the wings with his mask still on, apparently DJing.
It seemed to make himself feel better about his performance that at one point he reminded the audience: “This is the smallest crowd” of the entire tour. They cheered. “Why are you cheering that?” Zombie asked, laughing. He then made a deal with the crowd that this show would be a Halloween party. The crowd responded heartily like Zombie was doing them a favor. That wasn’t enough for Zombie. He demanded everyone stand up and cheer. He declared that he would take it as a message that anyone standing was down to party and anyone sitting down was basically saying, “Fuck you.” I remained seated.