He slashed at the air with a large knife. Well, it was a knife on one end and a microphone on the other, an instrument of terror that Marilyn Manson took turns screaming into and then waving across his face wearing a threatening smile. As he came to the end of "Killing Strangers," Manson used the knife to stab the tambourine in his other hand. This was just one grim moment in a night of many, a show that while less theatrical than tours' past, showed that Marilyn Manson is still able to charm a venue full of devoted followers just waiting to be horrified.
Before Manson and his band (which currently includes returning longtime member Twiggy Ramirez on bass) even entered the room, the tense mood was set, lights were dim and smoke shot out aggressively from the stage. It was high drama in the making, the band kicking in with "Deep Six" just as the maestro appeared. Immediately, his presence heightened the desired sense of faux-trauma — Manson's ability to produce an effective illusion of control over both his band and his audience is what is perhaps more timeless than the music he creates.
Manson was also was happy to exercise his politician-or-cult leader qualities, leading the fist-pumping masses through most established tracks like "mOBSCENE" and "Disposable Teens." Regardless of which era of Manson is being displayed visually, his music has always carried the same themes: sex, celebrity, fantasy, nightmares, heresy, violence, disobedience, blasphemy, death — it is all part of what keeps him forever relevant. But some of Manson's on-stage stunts were just too obvious — at one point he broke a bottle on his mic stand and proclaimed that "they" were not supposed to allow him to have any sharp objects. It was sort of an anti-menacing move on his part — especially when the crew had to come out and quickly sweep up the glass — though it was a maneuver that he more than made up for when he later drew the knife-mic.
When he wasn't stabbing tambourines or breaking prop bottles, Manson was swinging a chromed out vintage-looking microphone like a whip, tossing his mic stand around as if he weren't surrounded by his band and in general, getting very into his props. At one point, his microphone had a set of brass knuckles attached to it; earlier in the evening, he produced a microphone with a light on the end, an icy beam of florescence that strategically lit up his face when he raised it to scream. At several points in the evening, cannons shot glitter into an overjoyed room of mohawks, bald heads and Bettie Page bangs, dusting the ageless cult of malcontents on a never-ending search for rebellion with shiny material.
In this way, Marilyn Mason's performance was most like a big budget pop show — it felt like the crowd was waiting to see what he was going to pull out of virtual magic box just as much as they were waiting to hear a favorite old song. Manson was pleasing in that way, too — he did his fantastic covers of both Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" and Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus." Later, he teased the crowd with a verse and a half from David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream," before going into "Rock is Dead."
Manson also managed to weave classics like "Dope Show" and "Beautiful People" into the set, visually going full throttle into the '90s throwbacks by donning a white fur coat over his gothy uniform of all black with straps. The back of the stage was shimmering and spinning lights beaming the word "DRUGS" shown high above Manson and his family in a rather on-the-nose but still gleefully Mansonesque moment of excess.
The way he was engineering the performance made it seem like there was no real set list, and with a show that ran close to an hour and forty-five minutes (Manson was only scheduled for an hour), the night may very well have been composed in such a way just for Denver. He had two encores before the performance finally ended with a kiss blown off of his palm — a kiss that felt like it came in equal parts disgust and love for our city. The set had been littered with remarks from Manson about him being shot at, antagonized and threatened; but like the rest of a Marilyn Manson performance, it was all part of the show. Manson proved that even long after the shock value has have worn off, he is still fucking terrifying, and his fans love and adore him for every moment of the experience.
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