Aside from the concerned looks I received at work when I showed up with a studded bra, ready to see Marilyn Manson play at the Hammersmith Apollo in London yesterday, I was asked a lot of questions about the gig. While non headbangers simply wondered why I would want to end my evening in a screaming mosh pit, the rock music aficionados asked me: is it still worth it to see Manson live? Can he still hold the stage? The short answer is: fuck yeah.
The French tricolore lit up the Apollo’s stage from the very start, in memory of the Paris attacks. Then came a great show by opening band Krokodil, who got everyone in the right mood for Manson throwing the tradition of unmemorable, shitty support bands out of the window.
The Antichrist Superstar came on stage shortly afterwards in an explosion of lights, erupting pits, drums and guitars to open with “Deep Six”, the first hit single from his comeback album “The Pale Emperor”, a darker, more mature and bluesy record than the ones he released in the past few years.
However excellent though, “The Pale Emperor” wasn’t the star of the show. Manson’s “Hell Not Halleluja” tour is the perfect nod to his die-hard fans, a great recap of the God of Fuck’s greatest hits from his best albums: 1996’s “Antichrist Superstar”, 1998’s “Mechanical Animals”, 2000’s “Holy Wood” and 2003’s “The Golden Age of Grotesque”, without forgetting hits from his first two albums.
Throughout the performance, Manson showed off his incredible knowledge of everything current, coming on stage in after a mix of an eclectic dance song followed by rap and finished by a religious speech against the devil. He quoted Ice Cube and indulged in a number of costume changes, including a knife microphone and long crutches he walked on during his cover of The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”.
Sure, the gig might have not been as controversial as the 90s’ tales of urinating on stage or wearing corsets and stockings, but Manson entertained the audience with a more mature style, focusing on the music. And man, can he still scream: the most powerful performances were definitely “The Beautiful People”, “Antichrist Superstar”, which he introduced by delivering a sermon from a flaming Bible while standing on a pulpit, and “Irresponsible Hate Anthem”, which drove the crowd nuts at the shouting of the familiar: “I wasn’t born with enough middle fingers”.
Manson’s voice and attitude are still sexy, he can still command the stage and the crowd, he can still make you laugh with cheeky, rude, playful comebacks: “Throw your bras, don’t throw your cups,” he told the audience, “because A I’ll drink it, and B I’ll come out there and bite your liver out.”
What’s different now is that Marilyn Manson is not the world’s Undesirable Number One anymore – and he doesn’t want to be. On stage, he appeared grateful and chuffed by the gig’s atmosphere, saying: “I wanna thank you all for coming tonight – no joke there, I just want to thank you.”
Most of all, as he claims himself, he is a rockstar: he’s now a well-consolidated legend rather than a punk looking to be hated and to make everyone uncomfortable. Rather than undress, wank off or anthagonise religion, Manson’s wants to make you think. It’s an album coming from the darkness of life experience rather than from anger against the world. Still, the anger is one of the things that united the crowd of all ages yesterday, and it’s by no means missing from the whole performance, a strong, engaging and nostalgic show.
The gig’s only fault was that it didn’t last long enough. After the unforgettable “Coma White”, delivered in a whirlwind of lights and fake ice showers, I was left craving for more… And yet Manson disappeared off the stage in a mist. Who knows, maybe he is a vampire after all.
Pictures: Daniel Quesada on Gigwise, Carolina Are
Marilyn Manson played:
- Deep Six
- Disposable Teens
- No Reflection
- Cupid Carries a Gun
- Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) / Lunchbox
- Angel With the Scabbed Wings
- Irresponsible Hate Anthem
- The Dope Show
- Antichrist Superstar
- The Beautiful People
- Coma White