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Bowery Ballroom, November 25: When these old rock-and-roll friends are in town, you make time. Opening for Yo La Tengo and newly drummerless (the young man from Hamburg who gamely lurched through their thrilling CMJ set quit days earlier), the Go-Betweens—Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, with Adele Pickvance on functional bass and honeyed vocals—settled for a judicious set list: seven songs off the triumphant Friends of Rachel Worth, which packs as much blindsiding insight per imagistic phrase as Albums 2 through 5, and an equal number from the vaults. Solo material included Forster’s prickly clusterfuck cautionary tale “Circle” and McLennan’s wry, radiant bliss-out “Easy Come Easy Go.”
Maxwell’s, November 26: The monogrammed towels were a nice touch—and their deployment characteristic (Robert’s ostentatiously draped on a chair behind him, Grant’s crumpled on the floor next to his Heineken). They played the same seven from Rachel Worth, uncorked some more vintage, and tore through a six-song encore. To the untrained eye, Forster stole the show: theatrical glances of bemused disgust punctuating “Baby Stones,” “Danger in the Past” expanded to epileptic Weimar cabaret. But it was one McLennan line after another (in “Bachelor Kisses,” “In the Core of a Flame”) that illuminated the defining appeal of these empathic, sardonic, deadly precise songs—a love of language helps immeasurably in grappling with the language of love, as does the maturity to acknowledge the latter’s tragic inadequacy.
Knitting Factory, November 30: Finally, an audience ardent enough to support the theory that their cult swelled with each year that they were mourned. Forster’s red-striped suit matched the celebratory mood; requests were hollered, favorite lines loudly cheered (mostly Robert’s, not least because the delivery’s more conducive). Rachel Worth was played in its entirety, and Forster got the mass sing-along he’d been craving all week with the loping, loopy “Surfing Magazines.” McLennan fed off the crowd euphoria too—”Right Here” (chords written in Brooklyn, he revealed at Bowery Ballroom) sounded at once galvanic and profoundly comforting. Not insignificantly, they rounded off the encores with “This Girl, Black Girl,” a 1983 B side—a quiet, grateful gesture to the faithful. —Dennis Lim
By the end of the sold-out Marilyn Manson show at Hammerstein Ballroom on November 25, there were no sacrificed goats, no pledges of allegiance to the devil, just poor drummer Ginger Fish lying unconscious on the stage as droves of very satisfied disposable teens left the auditorium. Ripping through up-tempo tunes from his new Holy Wood as well as 1996’s Antichrist Superstar, Marilyn quickly had the kids wrapped around his skinny Mephistophelian fingers. The army of the pale and pissed oscillated from slobbering oh-my-goth catatonia to rabid scream-alongs.
Marilyn has quite the refined taste for the visceral fuck-you—a kind of Joel-Peter Witkin freak-show finesse. Though not quite as theatrical as his Antichrist Superstar tour, the show did have many engaging macabre touches: MM as fully robed Catholic bishop, backdrops of disembowled babies and burnt flags, glitter explosions, his dictator pulpit with new rifle/gun/cross insignia, green-slime body adornment. But the set was surprisingly tame—except, of course, for the end-of-show mishap where Marilyn threw his mike stand at Ginger Fish and attempted to tear down his kit. With assistance from Mr. Fish, eventually the drums did go down, along with said drummer, who landed on his head 10 feet below. According to www.marilynmanson.com, he’s suffered a fractured collarbone, but no shows have been canceled. —David Shawn Bosler