JEORDIE WHITE | BASE TENDENCIES
When the angel with the scabbed wings descended on the Big Apple in late November, fans experienced firsthand what happens when the worm evolves into a man. New York City is a breeding place for characters like Manson who, from his early days as a shock rock-turned-antichrist to the more glam-minded catharsis of Mechanical Animals, could always find a place to feel right at home when visiting the gotham streets. And while the release of Holy Wood (In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death) may be more inspired by New York's west coast rival, it was only fitting that Thanksgiving weekend be spent in the chilled northeastern air. Both band and fans alike could be thankful for two sold out nights at the Hammerstein Ballroom, a venue Manson last played on his Mechanical venture. What a different Manson it was this time around, though…
Not different in a shocking sense, as only a cursory listen to Holy Wood reveals that the man and his band have come full circle with their message and, accordingly, their image. Gone were feathered boas, replaced by a shorn wing over Manson's left shoulder. And like a fallen angel sent to Earth to earn salvation, the frontman led his entourage through a 90-minute tour-de-Mansononian-force, flailing against the establishment with music as heavy and dark as the stage, band and costumes that embraced them. Like the Willy Wonka character of old, "Count To Six And Die" painted an eerily inviting intro to the madness that ensued, beckoning the maddening masses with a twisted grin and gnarled finger before erupting into the hard-hitting battle cries of "Irresponsible Hate Anthem," "Death Song" and "Disposable Teens." Manson hasn't hit this hard since his days opening for Nine Inch Nails, and stripped down to a black corset, he was visage of heavy metal salvation, his band providing the look and sound to back his fury. Bassist Twiggy Ramirez was in an antique dress reminiscent of when Manson circa Smells Like Children ushered in a New Year years earlier at the City's since-closed Academy nightclub. John5 moshed around his corner of the stage with a stomp as hard and fast as the sounds that flew like fire from his guitar, and keyboardist Madonna Wayne Gacy and drummer Ginger Fish performed their madness from the shadows, elevated just enough to offer a perfect view of the fist-pumping insanity that ensued on the floor.
A suave, smarter Manson wrestled with "Great Big White World" before returning to the stage on stilts for "Tourniquet", but it was the seque that followed that best epitomized the direction the band had taken: "I don't care about nature, I don't care bout this side, that side, taxes, yesterday or the future. The only thing that matters is today -- you and us, motherfuckers!" Manson spoke, the crowd responded, and "Fight Song" was born, a careening assault on the senses that set the tone for the night that followed. "My Monkey" bled into the prophetic "Lunchbox" with "Rock Is Dead" and "Dope Show" making their L.A.-inspired statement under a Hollywood Hills-styled Holy Wood sign. Manson rose from the stage to a perch high atop the Ballroom for "Crucifixion in Space", shining like the North Star and beckoning those below to listen to his words and follow their lead. The sudden change of pace into the techno-driven "Burning Flag" offered a jolt or two, as it was far from a smooth transition, but was all was soon forgotten as the backdrop of a scorched flag waved beyond the smoke. Enter "Sweet Dreams", after which Manson took the stage in Papal garments, kneeling behind a mock altar for his "Valentine's Day" eulogy. A pulpit replaced the altar for "Love Song," a rifle and pistols adjoining to form a cross, the tour's prevailing logo. "Beautiful People", "Reflecting God" and "Antichrist Superstar" closed the show with the same fortitude and intent that kicked it off, an exclamation point on an evening that successfully shifted the focus on Marilyn Manson from image to content. And stripped of its sugar-coated glaze, the band and their message are twice as potent.