Marilyn Manson Live @ Wembley Arena

The Times, December 7, 2007
By Stephen Dalton

The past 12 months have not been kind to the artist formerly known as Brian Warner. A very public split from his wife, the burlesque artist Dita Von Teese, left him depressed. A lawsuit filed by his former keyboard player, Stephen Gregory Bier, aka Madonna Wayne Gacy, demands that Marilyn Manson hand over millions of dollars in unpaid royalties, which Bier claims Manson wasted in buying skeletons, stuffed animals and Nazi memorabilia.

In addition, Manson’s planned film version of Alice in Wonderland has been postponed and his first new album in four years, Eat Me, Drink Me, arrived to mixed reviews and limited commercial impact. Full of dirges and baroque guitar squiggles, it is arguably the 38-year-old performer’s most conventional and melodic album yet, but not his best.

Tracks from the album featured prominently in Wednesday’s concert, but thankfully most sounded better live than on their sludgy studio recordings. Bathed in sickly red light, the stack-heeled, black-clad singer opened the show at the three-quarters full Wembley Arena with If I Was Your Vampire, a croaky and sluggish, mid-tempo grinding tune. Stabbing the air with a microphone designed to resemble a dagger added to the slightly comical air of dated gothic pantomime.

Putting Holes in Happiness was much stronger, a swaggering and sleazy performance reminiscent of Suede at their peak.

The towering glam-punk anthem Are You the Rabbit?, one of several allusions to Alice in Wonderland peppering the set, sounded meaty and muscular. There was even a surprisingly jaunty version of HeartShaped Glasses, during which Manson toyed with a robotic woman, eventually pulling off her head. This was pure shock-rock spectacle in the spirit of Alice Cooper’s mock outrages from the early 1970s. Fun, but a little cheesy.

Overall, this show contained fewer of the grand theatrical touches for which Manson’s tours are known, which seemed to serve the music better. The singer performed one number while writhing atop an oversized wooden chair, lending it a slightly unsettling air of childhood nightmares. For another, he was carried aloft on a hydraulic platform, discreetly secured by a small harness. Even the Antichrist Superstar needs to follow health and safety regulations.

A clutch of Manson classics, including Disposable Teens, The Dope Show and The Beautiful People, sounded terrific, sending the crowd into a frenzy. For the grand finale, as is now traditional, Manson reappeared as a Bible-clutching fascist dictator addressing the crowd from a tall pulpit. It’s an old idea but still effective. Imagine Bertolt Brecht’s Hitler-bashing satire, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, with stage designs by Doctor Seuss.

Facing up to middle age and marital problems, Manson is more Ozzy Osbourne than Iggy Pop nowadays, but that is not such a bad thing. He has clearly lost some of his taste for confrontational theatre. But this was still a robust and exciting show, laced with dark wit and loud, punky energy.

Review stolen from The Times, pic exclusive to R*E*P*E*A*T from Steve Bateman

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