Better Than: Visiting a Hot Topic store on a Saturday afternoon.
Is The Pale Emperor album/persona Marilyn Manson’s version of David Bowie’s Thin White Duke? Both are elegantly dressed gents and doers of bountiful drugs. And like Bowie’s Station to Station album (of the Duke era), Manson’s latest opus references mythology and religion — and onstage he quoted “Moonage Daydream.” But Manson, as his name implies, is a rabid consumer of — as well as product of — the darker side of pop culture.
Indeed, over sixteen songs and close to two hours Thursday night at Terminal 5, Manson covered every taboo, referencing cultural icons as divergent as suicidal poet Sylvia Plath and party monster Michael Alig (who may or may not have been in attendance) in a set that was heavy on the between-song chatter and low on the musical flow. (“Just because we stop doesn’t mean I’ve forsaken you,” Manson quipped as the band took their time between songs on a blackened stage.)
The propulsive new “Deep Six” (with the clever/jokey lyrics “You want to know what Zeus said to Narcissus? ‘You’d better watch yourself’ ”) kicked off a show rife with the expected mix of hits, covers, and new material.
The Pale Emperor finds Manson exploring a heretofore unacknowledged blues influence, and “Killing Strangers” (sung, of course, with a knife microphone [“knifrophone”?!]) was a spare, sexy mid-tempo musical stomp. In keeping with his blues bent, much of Manson’s stage patter was delivered like a preacher with a faux Southern accent.
Still, classic Manson — “The Dope Show,” “Disposable Teens,” “Rock Is Dead,” and beloved cover versions of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” and Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” — was met with the appropriate floor-shaking enthusiasm. (As for the lattermost, Manson delivered a very Manson-esque intro: “One thing I learned in rehab: Fuck Jesus.”)
Of the cinematic new material — the music all composed by current guitarist Tyler Bates — the evocatively titled “Third Day of a Seven Day Binge” is already an audience sing-along, while “Cupid Carries a Gun” was hyped by Manson for its “witch drums” (blues again) and delivered partially from the floor in front of the stage.
“This Is the New Shit” (off 2003’s The Golden Age of Grotesque) was a standout, its looser feel jibing with the new material, while the speedy punk anarchy of 1996’s “Irresponsible Hate Anthem” found Manson and co. at their most pleasingly primal and raw. Surprisingly, the now classic “The Beautiful People” wasn’t the final song or encore; that honor went to “Coma White,” an oddly demure way to close, with Manson and his merry men departing the stage sans fanfare, as the house lights came on and AC/DC’s “Shoot to Thrill” blared from the P.A., an oddly anticlimactic end to an otherwise visually and aurally ardent performance.
First dude: “It’s my seventh time seeing him.”
Second dude: “It’s my first. He’s gotten a little calmer over the years, yeah?”
First dude: (Shrug.)
Random Notebook Dump:
1. Manson referenced snow (weather) and cocaine (not) but also sobriety. Is he?
2. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a girl put lipstick on her boyfriend. Good color for him.
3. Kerrang! gets a shout-out? No one here even knows that magazine.
I first saw Manson at the Whisky in L.A. in February 1995. And quite a few times subsequently. An in-person interview in 2000 where we spoke about (Charles) Manson and Columbine proved congenial and satisfying. I last reviewed a Manson gig in these pages in 2012. Yet despite the foregoing, I’d still only classify myself as an intrigued, casual fan.