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Marilyn Manson

(16 May 2012: Uptown Theater — Kansas City, MO)

This is my beautiful show and everything is shot in slo-motion
This is my beautiful show and everything is shot in slo-motion
—Marilyn Manson, “Slo-Mo-Tion”


Marilyn Manson performed to an all but sold-out theater in his first time in the metropolis since 2009. Manson promoted his recent record, Born Villain (2012), which debuted at #10 on the Billboard 200. Moreover, the record has done well on Billboard Independent, Alternative, and Hard Rock album charts. But more importantly, Manson has re-invigorated himself, and acquired a newfound sense of challenge and purpose. His 15-song concert tonight was no “Guns, God and Government”-type spectacle, but it was a master showman at work.


Manson opened the show with a dramatic scene: standing behind a black curtain, and with his back turned, he held up his microphone stand horizontally across his upper body—to create the shape of a cross. Sagely, the band’s first two songs were “Hey, Cruel World…” and “Disposable Teens”; both, to be sure, excited and charmed the appreciative audience.


The artist, in fact, blew kisses to his rather dedicated admirers in front of the stage. A new track in a similar vein as “If I Was Your Vampire”—“Hey, Cruel World…”—happened to be better live as opposed to on record. For example, when Manson screamed “Creator / Preserver / Destroyer” it sounded exactly fitting—indubitably designed for a live rendition.


Concerning the setlist, with the exception of four new songs, it was something of a “Best Of”, or, “most popular” hits gig. In fact, nine songs tonight actually were on Lest We Forget (2004), Manson’s 17-track greatest hits album. Also, the concert was very much reminiscent of the “Against All Gods” show in St. Louis in 2004—but Twiggy was neither present nor on guitar then. Manson did run the risk of overtly pandering, by neglecting to play certain ditties.


Wittily imitating or mocking some NA or AA meeting, Manson noted “My name is Marilyn Manson, and I love fucking drugs” prior to, surprise, “The Dope Show” – a song that, ironically, may have little to do with actual drugs. He wore dark sunglasses and a stylish, pink feather boa about his neck. Guitarist Twiggy’s “Coma Black” solo interlude, too, was quite well-done, however brief. His playing throughout was as flashy as it was precise. The venue’s acoustics were generally acceptable.


As for props, bits and pieces from past tours were utilized, and it could be regarded as, in part, a contest of intriguing hats: A Nazi SS hat during “Irresponsible Hate Anthem”; a silver, mirrorball-like soldier’s helmet during “Rock is Dead”; a Wonka-esque top hat during “mOBSCENE”, one of the worst songs in the band’s corpus. Notwithstanding, it’s understandable that it made the cut: it was nominated for a Grammy in 2004.


Others: lights and cameras; Manson played guitar for about a minute during “Pistol Whipped”; he used several black towels to treat his sweat—and then tossed them into the crowd. (An ironic point about relics it seems.)    
 
As to lowpoints, “Sweet Dreams” was the near definition of tedium, and Manson, palpably fatigued, dialed in “The Beautiful People”, the closer. However, “Irresponsible Hate Anthem” and “Antichrist Superstar”, both well-regarded, lively Antichrist Superstar (1996) tracks, were considerable highpoints.


Manson botched verses to “Irresponsible Hate Anthem”. Still, his stage-movement and passion didn’t waver in the least. The podium-pulpit was brought out for “Antichrist Superstar”; Manson could have won a Tony for his portrayal of an unhinged preacher-theocrat, as he knocked microphones down and ripped pages from the Bible. “Personal Jesus” and “The Dope Show” too were loudly recognized.  


But “Slo-Mo-Tion” was the subtle, cerebral motif of the night, and it was cheered, albeit prematurely, by the fans. Manson did not issue photo passes to the media. He has de-stressed provocation or “shock” and instead pivoted to a tactic of confusion or chaos. During many songs, Manson dashed to the rear-left of the stage to sing to lights and cameras, or distinguished guests.


The new song is a critique of Hollywood, worship of fame, the stupidity of reality TV, and the media. Photographs invariably turn artists into products, commodities to be bought and sold; so do certain record companies, where profit often trumps the concerns of the artist. (Of course, “Slo-Mo-Tion” also alludes to one of Shakespeare’s fondest subjects: assassination.)


Maybe nothing’s shocking anymore, but Marilyn Manson remains remarkable and meaningful, and furthermore one of the most significant live artists.


Setlist
01 Hey, Cruel World…
02 Disposable Teens
03 The Love Song
04 No Reflection
05 mOBSCENE
[Coma Black solo interlude]
06 The Dope Show
07 Slo-Mo-Tion
08 Rock Is Dead
09 Personal Jesus
10 Pistol Whipped
11 Tourniquet
12 Irresponsible Hate Anthem
13 Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
14 Antichrist Superstar
15 The Beautiful People

William Carl Ferleman is a professional music journalist and scholar. He has attended more rock shows than Sir Mick Jagger. He has completed coursework for his Ph.D. in English Renaissance literature. His latest scholarly publication is entitled "What if Lady Macbeth Were Pregnant?: Amativeness, Procreation, and Future Dynasty in Maqbool" (www.borrowers.uga.edu). He appreciates Nietzsche's maxim: "Without music life would be a mistake." He enjoys politics, debate, theatre, and Jameson Irish whiskey. He sleeps with his contrarian pussycat, Issa. He holds a B.A. and M.A. from The University of Kansas.


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