Rob Zombie / Marilyn Manson – Hammerstein Ballroom – 10/17/2012


Better Than: Watching Elvira host Count Yorga, Vampire.

It’s always Halloween at a Rob Zombie and/or Marilyn Manson show. So when the reasonably dynamic, formerly dueling duo infiltrated New York a few weeks prior to the Pagan-ish holiday, it was hard to tell whether the crowd was in costume or street clothes.

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While previous gigs had found the nouveau shock-rock/horror-meisters throwing barbs at each other onstage, as opener Marilyn Manson shed his jacket after the second song, he noted that the gesture might normally indicate he was ready to do battle. Instead, he quipped, “I’m not gonna fight tonight.” In fact, the on-stage name-calling had started over set lengths in this co-headlining tour, and this evening, both bands turned in solid 65-minute sets full of fan favorites, though, if the show had been staged as the previous evening’s debate, Zombie would have come out on top in the race for the theatrical rock crown.

The evening looked like Gaga meets GWAR and often sounded like a ’90s dance party. Manson, who had more outfits over the evening than Mitt Romney has women in his binder, was most compelling on his sing-along, anthemic offerings, notably the cheerleadery 2003 single “Mobscene.” A pair of covers–Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” and the true-to-the original “Personal Jesus” (originally by Depeche Mode) were expected highlights. Whether decked out in a Pope-like red and gold miter or brandishing his knife microphone as a phallic symbol, Manson cuts a sharp silhouette. Though, these days, as Jane’s might say, “nothing’s shocking.”

Zombie, on the other hand, is more about horror homage than shock, and to that end he succeeded, his more metal/guttural musical approach both more humorous and likably simplistic than Manson’s. As clips of everything from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown to The Munsters to the Manson family aired, Zombie and company tore through a high-energy set brought down only when the hosts of VH1’s That Metal Show were introduced on stage mid-show. That aside, “Living Dead Girl” and other go-go-gore classics like 1998’s “Meet the Crepper” and the encore of “Dragula” were easygoing crowd-pleasers.

Obviously, both Manson and Zombie (or, if you’re feeling spiteful, Warner and Cummings) are known for elaborate stage shows, but the odd thing this evening was the “spooky” similarity of several scenarios. Both frontmen used “pulpits” to sing from (to excellent effect, at least), confetti showers and smoke guns. Maybe there was a two-for-one at Party City? At any rate, the two headlining shock-rockers, like Alice Cooper (who Zombie covered via an abbreviated “School’s Out”), are looking to have careers into their 50s and beyond. They served up a strong start to the season of the witch.

Critical Bias: Manson’s decadent, debauched mien holds more fascination, yet Rob Zombie put on more of a ballsy, rock star-rock performance, winning over the predominantly young-ish crowd. Manson has grown less creepy with age and exposure, while Zombie’s high energy, audience-engaging approach, coupled with the strong guitar work and stage presence of John 5–formerly of Manson’s band–is simply more fun. In fact, drummer Ginger Fish also made the switch from the Manson to the Zombie camp. As the old joke used to go, “incest is best!” (Musically speaking, that is.)

Overheard: “I apologize. But I’m gonna have a bruise. And maybe that’s harassment.” (From the guy I decked in the head after he pushed a dude way out of the mid-floor, frat-house drunken mosh pit and onto me.)

Random Notebook Dump: “Creepy organ.” (Referring to Zombie’s intro music.) And “Lords of Salem ad/interlude, WTF?” (Zombie showed the promo to his upcoming film before his encore of “Dragula.” Cheesy and car-salesmen-like? Yes. But nonetheless, the flick looked pretty cool.)