The bible shredding and self-mutilation incidents of past Marilyn Manson shows may be gone, but live, the shock is still one with the rock. Not since Kiss in their heyday, or more comparatively Alice Cooper, has anyone pushed the theatrical aspects of a concert this far. From Siamese twins eerily twitching and gyrating at the front of the stage while Manson rose to the ceiling on a pedestal, to donning mouse ears and covering “It’s a Small World (After All)” during the encore, it was a pure visual feast.
8 Aug 2003: The Electric Factory Philadelphia
The show was an “Off-Fest” date, a solo show during a multiple-day break from the Ozzfest tour, which Manson is co-headlining this year. Piling in as many props as would fit into the less than 2500 capacity Electric Factory, everything Manson did was dead on. Starting with the sound of an old time movie reel spinning during the instrumental “Thaeter”, an undeniably powerful anticipative feeling began to reverberate throughout the building. Manson then officially started off the festivities with, “Are you mother-fuckers ready?! / For the new shit?!,” to which the audience replied with an overwhelming sense of impending combustion as four huge black banners bearing the new “MM” insignia simultaneously dropped from above the stage.
Leaning heavily on material from his new release, The Golden Age of Grotesque, which is less on imagery and more on music, Manson led his ghastly crew of musicians through an hour and a half of non-stop crotch grabbing, scantily clad females and multiple set changes. The backdrop changed half a dozen times, from a medieval castle-like setting to blinking red neon during “mObscene.” Manson pranced defiantly back and forth, dressed in a tight black sleeveless outfit when not in costume, while two girls chanted and marched in place to the “Be obscene!” chorus militantly in the background. During “The Dope Show”, the singer sported six foot arm extensions, pointing and flailing while jerking himself about in time with the hit from Mechanical Animals.
Proudly noting his accomplishments since his last time in Philadelphia, Manson declared, “We shot some schools up, and fucked with some men’s heads.” But the night was less about politicking and controversy, and closer to theatrics and remaining relevant. For instance, the two multi-use dancers / vaudeville girls looked nude, but they were actually wearing either prosthetic genitalia and breasts or flesh colored bikinis. Erring on the side of caution for whatever reasons—legal hassles, past arrests, prior misconceptions, etc.—the show was far from diluted risqué behavior, as demonstrated from two highlights of the show.
“I see you mother-fuckers are ready for the new shit,” Manson bellowed before launching into “Sweet Dreams”, “Are you ready for the old shit?”
In the middle of the song, after a jaw dropping solo from guitarist John5, Manson jammed a microphone into the prosthetic rear of one of the girls as she was bent over at the lip of the stage—and then proceeded to sing out of it. The spectacle, simulated or not, was indecent enough to cause some trouble, dispelling the notion that shock and risk had fully lost its place.
Perhaps more disturbing, though slightly less offending (unless you’re Disney), was the encore, whereupon Manson cavorted with a black bondage mask on his face and Mickey Mouse ears adorning his head as he warbled “It’s a Small World”. Shortly afterwards, during the showstopper “The Beautiful People”, a blow-up facsimile of the Mouseketeer Manson inflated and threatened to overtake the stage. It was the perfect cap to a show full of the new Marilyn—still shocking, still over the top, and more about the music than taunting those waiting in the wings to take him down.