It could be argued that the music and image of the make-up wearing shock rocker Manson can be traced to bands like Twisted Sister and, of course, Ozzy Osborne and Alice Cooper, all of whom have a place on my iPod. So maybe I'm a little bit qualified. And as any good journalist will do, I will write as knowledgeably as I can on the subject of this review, but consider this my disclaimer for any gaps in this story.
From the time I learned about this show, it was my intention to attend as a photographer. Having heard of Marilyn Manson since his beginnings as the scapegoat for the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999, I was intrigued to see him perform. Enough time had passed for his initial controversy to wear off, making me wonder if his music still held any relevance for people.
The line that snaked around the Grand Sierra Resort on Saturday an hour before show time told me that Manson, relevant or not, could still draw a crowd. The faces in that line ranged from fans who were obviously teenagers when Manson first hit the music scene in the early 1990s to teens who were barely born at the time. Unique attire, piercings, tattoos and hair styles were present on all ages of fans, regardless of how (in)appropriate or (un)flattering.
Manson hit the stage at about 9:45 p.m. with all the moody lighting and fog you'd expect from him. I'd like to be able to tell you what song he played to kick off the show, but I only know two of his tunes and no one after the show could provide me with a set list. (According to the Web site www.setlist.com, he played "We're From America" first). Manson's band, consisting of a guitarist, bassist, drummer and keyboardist, thundered out the song while the singer scratched and screamed out the lyrics. Despite some reported recent health issues, Manson seemed full of energy as he spun around the stage and crouched down a few feet away from his rabid fans.
Later, between songs, Manson made reference to the fact that he had not played Reno in 15 years. He alluded to the reason being for his banishment was how his music allegedly influenced the Columbine killers. Whatever the reason, he then proceeded to don an Army helmet and American flag and chant, "We love hate, we hate love," which he often recites before playing his song "Irresponsible Hate Anthem," as was the case on Saturday.
Following that song, a roadie brought out an oxygen tank and mask, which Manson said his doctor recommended he do to combat his recent ills. It was a moment that put the performer on a human level that defies his typically inhuman appearance.
His next song was "WOW," which I only know because the title was written on a large note card along with the rest of the lyrics of the song. No, he didn't forget them but rather it would seem he was doing a Bob Dylan impression by flinging the note cards aside (think music video to "Subterranean Homesick Blues"). Reading the lyrics to "WOW," I know for sure that Manson is no Dylan, but there was likely some attempt at a statement there.
Throughout the show, Manson took swigs from beer bottles and spit the liquid over the audience. At one point in the show he mentioned his spitting on the fans, but I couldn't quite make out if there was a reason. Before another song he pretended to snort cocaine on stage (at least, I assumed he pretended). Those were the worst of his stage antics, so I was not witness to anything that would make me think he is any kind of devil.
An hour into the set he performed "Sweet Dreams," his his cover of the Eurythmics song, to which the crowd cheered wildly. His next song was familiar to me, but only because I knew it from the film "Natural Born Killers" (see, I'm not a total square). Some Internet research after the show revealed to me the song is "Rock and Roll Nigger" by Patti Smith.
The main show ended shortly thereafter and he came back for a one-song encore, performing "The Beautiful People." Despite my ability to identify a few songs for this review, I was not familiar with any of his other material. However, at the end of the show I did hear a guy near me say something like, "Play some of the old stuff we know." Perhaps this meant he was playing a lot of stuff off the album released earlier this year, "The High End of Low." Whatever songs he played, some were catchy while others, to the non-death-metal ear, didn't sound like much of anything. However, I am glad I went because I got to catch a very famous name in music do his thing live. His show wasn't especially flashy -- the backdrops were fairly static and Manson didn't light anything on fire or sacrifice any animals -- but he oozed anger and rebellion, as any good rock and roller should, much to the fans' delight.
And knowing that guys like Alice and Ozzy kept up their acts well into their Social Security years, the 40-year-old Manson still has a lot of makeup to wear.