As this week’s Remember When points out, Marilyn Manson has come across as a bit of a mess on stage lately. More specifically, video of Manson’s set in Heresy, PA last month has made many question just how drunk or high the shock rocker has been while on tour with Slipknot.
But hey, sometimes even the most professional of musicians have off nights, right? Maybe Manson isn’t as f’d up as we think he is? Well, it just so happens that while Bram and Zach saw Manson in Holmdel, NJ on July 9, Nick saw the tour’s stop in Camden, NJ, on July 28. So with that in mind, the three decided to compare their experiences seeing Manson on this run to determine one simple question: is Manson just having a few bad nights, or should we be more concerned about Manson’s onstage behavior?
Zach: If it’s simply a matter of having an “off night,” then Manson was really having an off night in Holmdel last month… then again, I’ve unfortunately never seen an “on night” from Manson. The only other time I’ve seen him live was when he co-headlined Mayhem Fest back in 2009, a performance I often describe as “witnessing a doped up clown in the middle of a train wreck.” This time around, there wasn’t that much of a “train wreck” to witness… just a doped up clown.
I’ll say this much: his band sounded really tight, not letting an off-pitch, obviously inebriated Manson who made so many attempts to distract them (whether through groping or simply banging on their instruments midway through song) get the best of them. Unfortunately, that didn’t hide the fact Manson’s voice sounded horrendous, and appeared too drunk to even stand, let alone hold a microphone shaped like a knife (I think at one point he even accidently cut himself… which wouldn’t be surprising given how hard he would throw equipment on stage). He simply looked and sounded like a mess.
However, I’ll also be the first to admit that I’m not even that big of a fan of Manson’s, and that there seemed to be plenty of fans at the show who didn’t seemed fazed by Manson’s onstage behavior (the die-hard Manson fan who sat next to me did admit, though, that he seemed a little less drunk at the tour’s stop in Jones Beach, NY just a few nights prior). So did I simply catch Manson on an off night? Would I have even cared if I was a huge fan of Manson? Not sure, but after watching that downright pathetic performance in Holmdel, NJ, I don’t think I have the patience to give Manson on a “good night” a chance.
Bram: Zach, I think by showing your bias that you’re not a fan, you’re predisposed to not want to like him. I’ve been following the band since they first got signed to Interscope, since a friend that had lived in Florida for a few years came back with a cassette tape of this band he liked called Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids. I’ve enjoyed some albums (particularly Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals) and liked other songs here and there, even though I would never call myself a huge fan. Manson’s one of those guys like Rob Zombie, where watching the performance is going to trump the album (Trent Reznor-produced Antichrist the glaring exception). And while the live show and staging has been impressive and his band’s always spot-on, part of the chaos of the live show is the unpredictability of Brian Warner.
However, being at the Holmdel show as well, I can relate to what you’re saying. He certainly appeared to not be sober, and threw alcohol and his mic stand around like a petulant child. I hadn’t seen him since he played the Mayhem Fest probably about five or six years ago, and he was bloated and awful then. After having heard about his comeback and being impressed by last year’s The Pale Emperor, I was rooting for Manson and was hoping to be impressed. I was surrounded by people, some of whom came specifically to see Manson, who were way more disappointed than I was. It wasn’t like it was as bad as some of the footage that has surfaced online from the last few weeks, and props to his backing band for soldiering on, but it wasn’t a good look. Not to mention opening for Slipknot, who’s singer played the whole show in a neck brace, showed by far which band had the more professional singer.
Zach: Bram, in response let me add that though I’m not a fan, I wouldn’t say I was rooting against him. In fact, I too had heard good things about him live lately, and too was impressed by The Pale Emperor, so I was hopeful (maybe not excited or full of anticipation, but hopeful for a much better show than what I witnessed at Mayhem Fest in 09). And if it was simply a matter of a rock star being unpredictably wild, then I’d be all for it.
But sadly it wasn’t a matter of unpredictability. He was sloppy, so much so that I wouldn’t make any great efforts to see him again in the hopes of seeing what all the fuss has been about.
Nick: I saw him on this run in Camden, after a couple show cancellations and a brief stint in the hospital. Unlike you guys, I’m absolutely a superfan, and although that gives me some bias in his favor, it also makes me wary knowing full well how big a trainwreck he was around the time Zach is referencing in the mid-to-late 2000s, and I’d be honest if the set was disappointing. I’ll be the first to tell you that Holy Wood in 2000 was his last truly great album until The Pale Emperor broke up a string of mediocre-to-terrible records. All that in mind, I can honestly say that he was very good; as good as Marilyn Manson in 2016 can be. I saw him twice last year as well, on that very strong comeback record, and both were excellent performances; once at a sold-out Terminal 5, and once in Holmdel with the Smashing Pumpkins. I’ll definitely say that by the time the Pumpkins tour rolled around, his between-set demeanor made it seem like he was over it, as by that point he’d been on the road for a solid 8 months – at one point even shoving his guitar player and getting into a brief argument (hey Manson, I already know all the songs…if you’re sick of that dude, give me a call) but at Camden last week he truly seemed happy to be there and took multiple moments between songs to show his gratitude.
The impression I’m getting overall is that he’s being asked to tour more than he’s willing to, and whether he was wasted or truly sick as his camp said a couple weeks ago, the fact that I’ve seen 3 “on” nights on each leg of touring he’s done since the record came out says that these articles floating around about the whole tour being a disaster aren’t really giving the whole picture. If any of them had been terrible, I wouldn’t keep trucking out to see the guy. Besides, how is Marilyn Manson being fucked up news in any way, shape or form? In 1996 people walked out of Manson shows covered in all manner of fluids, and they were happy about it!