Marilyn Manson, with Ours
Monday, February 11
The Uptown Theater
By ANDREW MILLER
The January 9 return of bassist Twiggy Ramirez sent Marilyn Manson message boards scrolling, and the news promised dividends for casual fans. For example, given that Ramirez missed the recordings of the group’s indifferently received recent albums (2003’s The Golden Age of Grotesque and 2007’s Eat Me, Drink Me), it seemed unlikely that he’d be forced to learn all that material in a month, suggesting a set list heavy on early favorites. And this mostly tame-looking crowd, largely composed of working-age men and women who apparently lacked the motivation for goth dress-up after a long day at the job, probably wanted to hear the songs from their wild black-eyelinered teen years.
However, at this point in history, a significant percentage of Marilyn Manson concertgoers aren’t concerned with the group’s personnel machinations or new releases. They’re there to see creative, controversial imagery in a hard-rock world that’s increasingly embracing grunge-era visual minimalism. As these fans watched the darkened, curtain-shrouded stage for an interminable 80 minutes after opening act Ours finished, they were no doubt hoping the delay would translate into elaborate props and pyrotechnic displays. Finally, when the group appeared and engaged in inventive shadowplay before the curtain rose -- revealing Ramirez’s silhouette and hinting at a gigantic, knife-wielding Manson -- a compelling spectacle appeared imminent.
Photo by Anna-Marie Perry
Alas, Manson’s circus has lost its lions. When he appeared at 2001’s Ozzfest, his stage-show attractions (stilt-intensive costumes, a crucifix made of rifles) were not only impressive in their scope but also intriguingly abstract. At the Uptown, his visual manifestations were disappointingly literal. When a song featured the chant “Fight! Fight!,” the word appeared in block letters on the massive Lite-Brite backdrop. For “Dope Show,” the display rained colorful capsules, resembling a giant game of Dr.Mario. During “Heart-Shaped Glasses,” Manson donned the titular accessory.
Manson employed a few decent props and discarded them quickly. For the first few songs, he used a microphone that came to a sharp dagger point, swinging it in a windmill-stabbing motion. At the beginning of “Sweet Dreams,” he walked onto a blackened stage wearing a double-barreled miner’s hat. “Coma White” yielded pretty snow-machine precipitation, though that touch might have seemed seasonally overapt to fans about thirty minutes away from a frigid walk to their flurry-dusted vehicles.
Musically, Manson still packs some fire, especially during Antichrist Superstar selections such as “1996” and “Irresponsible Hate Anthem.” Physically, he just isn’t as scary as he once was, especially given the advent of YouTube access to Swedish black-metal bands. With his coy facial expressions and Blade Runner-style facial stripe, he resembles Karen O more than a demonic presence. Also, with the exception of people shocked by the word “fuck” and Christians who object to seeing a Bible waved disdainfully (but not desecrated), no one could have found this performance offensive, or even provocative.
Opening act Ours did manage to raise the audience’s ire, drawing smatterings of boos. The band’s chiming guitars and Jeff Buckley-conjuring vocals earned it a following in 2001 -- a crowd that’s since migrated to Muse. Ours hasn’t released an album since 2002, and Gnecco seems a bit rusty on the rock-star wardrobe (whereas Manson modeled leather pants, Gnecco sported a tightly zipped leather jacket). However, with his festive tambourine taps and acrobatic falsetto wailings, he managed to test the audience’s tolerance for flamboyance in ways even the gender-bending Manson has never dared.