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A Cut Above

[whitespace] Marilyn Manson Marilyn Manson herds his audience in a new direction at Cow Palace show

By Sarah Quelland
Photos by Scott Lechner

A die-hard Marilyn Manson supporter from early on, I caught every Manson show possible, from the Edge to the Trocadero to the Warfield. Accustomed to being crushed against the stage during his performances, close enough to see the brown of one eye and the blue contact of the other, close enough to cringe as glass from smashed bottles and light bulbs scattered across the stage, and almost close enough to smell the blood when he cut himself, it was with mixed emotions that I watched his ascent to stardom and saw his concerts move from clubs to arenas.

I was as skeptical about seeing Manson at the Cow Palace, where he performed last Thursday (March 10) with Hole and Monster Magnet, as I was about his latest album, Mechanical Animals.

When I first heard the album, I nearly threw it out the window. Closed-minded of me, perhaps, but I was convinced he'd been snorting too much glitter or that a combination of success and media-feted girlfriend (now fiancée) Rose McGowan's buoyant breasts had gone to his head. In short, I hated it, and worse than that, I hated him for making it.

It took time for me to pick up the album again, but after multiple listenings, I began to hear the beauty of Mechanical Animals and to accept the latest incarnation of one of my favorite artists.

Marilyn Manson

Moving away from dark, spooky industrial-metal and toward glittery, neo-retro, industrialized, spaceboy glam-pop was one of the most subversive things Manson could do. He'd already alienated most of America, why not alienate his fans as well?

In the beginning, he succeeded. The album, which debuted at No. 1 on the charts, was met with controversy: critics praised it and fans abhorred it. But in truth, fans, including me, should have seen it coming. His previous album, Antichrist Superstar, related in its lyrics Manson's metaphorical transformation from a worm to an angel. No surprise he emerged a butterfly--albeit a strange one.

Judging from the sizable crowd at the Cow Palace, a combination of Goths, glitter hounds, drag queens, jocks, metalheads and one random guy in a gas mask, few seem to hold his new image against him. Marilyn Manson, the man and the band (bassist Twiggy Ramirez, keyboardist Madonna Wayne Gacy, drummer Ginger Fish and new guitarist John5), is more popular than ever, and Marilyn Manson, the man and the band, still put on one hell of a show.

Marilyn Manson

Antichrist Superstar

The curtain dropped with a whoosh, and the crowd went wild with chants of "Anarchy. Anarchy." Manson appeared on a cross constructed of multisized television sets broadcasting white snow. Adorned much as he was on a recent cover of BAM, with blue make-up covering the top half of his face, he began with the solipsistic "The Reflecting God" from Antichrist Superstar.

Using pyrotechnics--and ultimately setting the TVs ablaze--Manson went through numerous costume changes, although he spent the majority of the show prancing about in a shiny silver pantsuit with a g-string underneath, teasing the audience, but never fully nude.

Manson's stage presence is different than it used to be. The aggressive rage and self-loathing have been replaced by confidence and a sense of importance, and the days of cutting himself with broken glass are gone.

Some things remain, however: He still starts "Get Your Gunn" with "I said goddamn!" He still leads the audience in chants of "We hate love, we love hate" before "Irresponsible Hate Anthem." He still stands at his podium, in a strange parody of Hitler, ripping pages from the Bible during "Antichrist Superstar."

But largely, Manson concentrated on new material. His voice reached the breaking point as he told the audience "I talked to God, and he said Jesus made marijuana. I talked to God, and he said Jesus made cocaine. I talked to God, and he said Jesus made LSD" before segueing into "I Don't Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)."

Marilyn Manson

He changed the lyrics in "The Dope Show" to "the drugs they say are made in San Francisco." Other songs from the new album that made it to the set list included "Great Big White World," "Mechanical Animals," "The Speed of Pain," "Rock Is Dead" and "Disassociative." Sadly (unless I blinked and missed it), long-time favorite "Cake and Sodomy" from Portrait of an American Family, was conspicuously absent.

Near the end of the show, Manson dedicated the night to his friend Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, who died in San Francisco in 1997, creepily close to Halloween (there was some controversy as to the actual date and time of his death).

Surprisingly, the show ended early, with Manson leaving the stage before the stroke of midnight without so much as an encore. He used to cut shows short because he cut himself too deeply. Likely, the Cow Palace early departure was due in part to the animosity between Manson and Hole, who walked off the tour right after the San Francisco gig. No real surprise. In a posting on Manson's official website, he writes, "Due to extreme problems caused by HOLE, we were unable to attend the aftershows. This has all been fixed. Well, I should say that it appears to be a war between us and Hole. I don't expect them to last very long."

And they say rock is dead.

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Web extra to the March 18-24, 1999 issue of Metro.

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