Marilyn Manson performs at Sunken Garden Theater on May 12
Photo: The Recording Academy
Marilyn Manson At Sunken Garden Theater
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By Jamie Harvey
There are certain artists that become part of your DNA and never leave. For me, one of those artists is Marilyn Manson.
Beyond creating some of my favorite songs, being part of a subculture that dictated my fashion and luring me with his constant controversies, I felt particularly bonded to Manson as a teenager because, even though he looked different, when he spoke people were often stunned by his intelligence. At my high school, an hour away from San Antonio's Sunken Garden Theater where I saw him perform live on May 12, I never looked like the rest of the honors students, or my volleyball team, for which I was allowed to make our entrance music tape. I had us running out to Manson's "The Beautiful People" in small-town Texas. Not to mention I was banned from seeing Manson as a teenager and sat home whimpering while all my friends got to experience one of my teenage icons.
To say that I'd be seeing the Antichrist Superstar on hallowed ground may seem highly ironic, but Sunken Garden Theater was the site of my first rock show. Even though that was 17 years ago, I can recall the feeling of walking into the entrance and somehow knowing this whole thing was going to be a big part of my life. This was only my third time back, and it would be a great one.
After the sultry rock of former "Gossip Girl" star Taylor Momsen's band the Pretty Reckless, I looked around and noticed I was surrounded by disillusioned youth who are still drawn to Manson after all these years. I wanted to hug them and tell them all would be OK, but before I could do that the black curtain billowed, revealing the shadowy figures of the band.
The recently released and highly anticipated latest Manson album, Born Villain, spawned the first track of the night, "Hey, Cruel World…." Together we were one, experiencing a catharsis as an emotional combination of excitement, anger and lust swept the crowd. "Disposable Teens" followed — an old crowd-favorite that evoked a sea of hair and sweat. Part of creating a good show for me is being in the perfect spot, and wedged alongside the mosh pit in a corner of the rail allowed me to see the band up close without being eaten alive (though I was almost vomited on).
Manson's eyes were highlighted in fluorescent pink as he went from wielding a butcher knife microphone to one adorned by brass knuckles. He stumbled around onstage with the music, at times almost in a convulsive manner. To his right was longtime band member Jeordie "Twiggy Ramirez" White, who has since transitioned from playing bass to guitar. Wearing a sexy dress and scary makeup, White played an understated yet intricate guitar, providing a syrupy anchor to the whole show. On the left, semi-new bassist Fred Sablan gave an asylum-worthy performance, moving in dizzying circles as he played and giving the crowd demented stare-downs, looking as if he would leap out and devour them. On drums, Jason Sutter provided the beats that make Manson's songs often electronically poppy.
The crowd was writhing as Manson's GRAMMY-nominated "The Dope Show" commenced, singing along as they moved. Manson has done some amazing covers over the years, and it was great to hear him perform Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus." After seeing many of his shows, I think that was a first for me. Later, Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" entranced the crowd. A new track titled "Pistol Whipped" was the first one to grab my attention from the new album, so I was happy to hear this live.
But it was his performance of "Tourniquet" that really got me. Sometimes when a band hits icon status, you forget that the songs have deep personal meaning for their creators. As Manson squatted and belted "Take your hatred out on me/Make your victim my head/You never ever believed in me/I am your tourniquet," you could see it his face, we all come from the same place.
"Irresponsible Hate Anthem" had everyone's middle-fingers in the air as we joined together as a group that has likely been bullied more than a lot of other subcultures. For the encore, the pulpit emerged and a Bible was torn and thrown into the crowd, causing mass chaos during "Antichrist Superstar." To end, "The Beautiful People" was Manson's goodbye embrace, and the crowd left better and more empowered for it.
"Hey, Cruel World…"
"The Love Song"
"The Dope Show"
"Rock Is Dead"
"Personal Jesus" (Depeche Mode cover)
"Irresponsible Hate Anthem"
"Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" (Eurythmics cover)
"The Beautiful People"
(Jamie Harvey splits her time between California and Texas, and is the rock community blogger for GRAMMY.com. She has been to more than 500 shows since 2007. You can follow her musical adventures and concert recaps at www.hardrockchick.com.)