Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Concert Review: Slayer and Marilyn Manson at Mayhem Fest

Posted By on Wed, Jul 22, 2009 at 2:54 PM

I have to talk to you about last night's Mayhem Fest tour stop at Sandstone but I really don't wanna. But I should just quit bitching and go on with things because I knew what the responsibilities were when I asked for the gig. Fuck. Who would've thought you'd feel this way the day after a Slayer show? And therein lies all the problems in the world. So let's just do this and get it over with.

Click for slide show.
  • Click for slide show.

If you don't know about the Mayhem Festival it's a touring act of metal bands - some good some great and a lot downright shitty. It's sponsored by a lot of really EXTREME brand names like Rockstar Energy Drink, and other stuff you need to stick in your face hardcore, according to the ads. So you know it's tough. The day started around 2 p.m. with 13 bands set to play over three stages, but Harper and myself didn't get there until Killswitch Engage was halfway through their set, at about a quarter to 8. Killswitch Engage writes bad songs and likes to see boobs in the audience. That's all there is to say about them.

Now Slayer's another story, and that's the act that was coming on after Killswitch Engage. Of the big four, Slayer's the only band that still matters and there's a reason they've held on to that relevance. Stuck in a bill with a dozen other younger bands, Slayer's older stuff still sounds contemporary if not damn near cutting edge.



Unfortunately, the sound guy sucked. What should have been the start of a fast run up a mountain when they started playing "God Hates Us All" sputtered and died as the sound cut in and out. The crowd at a Slayer show is not one to be fucked with. There were a lot of chants of Fix that shit! and a lot of stopping between songs when the band should've been building momentum. At one point, Tom Araya played a bass solo that just flat did not come through the PA. He just grinned and shook his head and kept going.

click to enlarge mayhem_020.jpg

Eventually, the shit was fixed, and to their credit, Slayer made the best use of the time they had left. As musicians, there is not a man in that band who doesn't have the chops to play the songs live with as much razor's-edge shredding and factory-precise drumming as on any of their recordings. At one point, the Marshall stacks on either side of the drum platform spontaneously combusted, and I'm not entirely sure it was a planned effect.

Even muscianship aside, those motherfuckers know how to work a crowd. Kerry King is probably on par with Billy Gibbons as being one of the best guitar players around who can use small movements at just the right time and put you smack in the palm of their hand. The slightest King pivot is worth three Angus Young duckwalks. And even though the band's stage presence and synchronized struts are clearly weapons that've been honed over decades of practice, they don't carry any sense of effort. Slayer never has to overtly try and convince you they are the servants of a dark overlord. They just clearly are. It's their charm.

Then you've got Marilyn Manson, who closed the show. I still have no idea why he was the headlining act. He can't follow Slayer by any measure.

Of course Manson's got his boogeyman rep. When I was in high school in that period between when Smells Like Children and Antichrist Superstar were released, I remember listening to my hometown's alternative station and hearing a caller get berated on-air by a DJ for requesting a Manson song. "I'm not going to play that Satanic crap. Get a life, loser," was the way I remember it. To this day, it's the only time I've heard a DJ deny a request on air. The idea that Manson was so dangerous he couldn't even be played on air -- well of course I'm going to buy that guy's album! Like trying to keep ants away from a picnic by throwing sugar at them. 

But today, it's hard to imagine anyone getting scared by Marilyn Manson. His schtick is so tired, and it doesn't help that he hasn't had a decent album in about nine years. I think he knows it, too, because last night his set was lethargic and dully cynical. Oooh... you burned a bible! Get in my face Manson! Blow my mind! 


Crawling around with a slight beer gut hanging just about the stage floor, Manson's whole act was trading on goodwill he earned at the end of the 20th century. The biggest crowd reactions were for the older tunes like "Dope Show" and his cover of "Sweet Dreams," but he sure didn't do much to deserve the yells. Underneath all the theatric lights and confetti and at one point a bed sheet (I'd be shocked if the thread count was under 1,000) Marilyn Manson as a band is actually a pretty weak act. Even after all the soundsystem fuckups Slayer still worked that stage with the lethal precision of a band of marines. Most of the time you couldn't see what was going on with Manson's group through all the funhouse smoke they had pumped in, but when you could ,they looked bloated and tired and concerned only with their own worlds. Shit Manson, you used to cut yourself up onstage. I'm know self-mutiliation every night is probably unrealistic, but you need to get a fire under your ass and at least make me think it might happen. The only time this cheap mix of weirdness and sloth worked was on show closer "The Beautiful People" when it felt like that was the whole point of the song.

You know, the more I think about what a rip-off Manson is the madder I get. His act is such a blatant lie, so devoid of any truth or even the pretense that he buys his own shit anymore, that he actually makes me doubt music as a concept. I could forgive all this if it seemed like he at least gave a fuck about putting on a fun show, but that's not going to happen anytime soon.

My ears are still ringing and I'm hungover but it doesn't feel worth it today. I feel used up. This is no good.  

Set list: angry

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