Thursday 17 December 2009

Marilyn Manson, Nottingham Arena

We’re off down the Arena to see Brian tonight. Somehow I always end up at the bloody Arena just before Christmas. I can’t say that I’ve ever really been a fan of our Bry, better known as Marilyn Manson, so when I was talked into seeing him, I had to do a bit of research to get me up to speed because I only really knew a few of his tracks.

Then on the eve of the gig, there were rumours going around that it may not happen and suggestions (by me) that they might consider switching it to the Rescue Rooms because the ticket sales had been so poor. Suppose he is over forty now and his bubble did seem to burst a few years ago. The Arena was bizarre choice anyway, particularly as the rest of his tour consists of Academys, with 2500-3000 capacities. Consequently the 8000 capacity Arena is not even half full tonight.

Support is from a band called esOterica, which sounds like a sports drink. They are from Croydon and have a lead singer who has quite a big opinion of himself. Correction, a very big opinion of himself. His over confident stage presence, to be fair, goes down well with crowd. If somebody had just walked in off the street and had no idea who was playing, they’d think this lot were headlining. Their set is good though, full of energy and enthusiasm. Their sound a touch industrial and a bit heavier than I expect even Marilyn to be. Reasonably impressed.

Once the support band have finished the stage is hidden behind a large black curtain which is a bit annoying as I like to see all the kit being setup and helps pass the time between bands. The curtain stays up when the lights go out. Then strange noises and a lot of smoke start to emanate from behind it. If this was to keep you in suspense they needn’t have bothered because once the curtain has dropped and the band are well into the swing of ‘Cruci-Fiction in Space’ you still can’t see anything because of the denseness of the smoke. It must be several minutes before someone emerges from of the gloom wearing a pair of red laser gloves which he fires at the crowd. It may or may not be the man himself.

As the song ends and the mist subsides, yep it’s him. The man clearly still has presence stage although it does seem to be accompanied by a bit of a beer belly these days.

One thing I’ve learnt by researching his music is that he certainly has some good songs and his second one tonight ‘Disposable Teens’, shows how surprisingly catchy some of them are. That said, he’s not known as a crowd pleaser for his song selection, often preferring the obscure album track to the big hit and he’s no exception tonight. They are many notable exceptions from the set but I for one, being a big fan of the obscure oldie, shouldn’t complain.

Visually though, he keep us busy, employing a number of costume changes, well mainly hats and jackets, all of which seemed to be quickly discarded into the crowd at the front. There are fewer costumes and certainly less razzmatazz than I was expecting but he did still possess an interesting selection of gadgets and lights to supplement his act.

Earlier this year a lot of people walked out of the Legends of Motown concert because the sound at the Arena was so awful, but I doubt that would ever happen at a ‘proper’ gig and Mazza may just have found the solution to the Arena’s awful acoustics. If you scream 'f*** you' at the roof, often enough and loud enough, as he does on 'The Love Song' eventually the sound reverberates back. Sorted. Works a treat too with the multiple cries of 'F*** It' on the following 'Irresponsible Hate Anthem'. As you can tell, so far it's a nice family show.

Although it’s a tour to promote his seventh studio album, ‘High End Of Low’, the majority of the set is pulled from his most famous albums, 1998’s ‘Mechanical Animals’ and 2000’s ‘Holywood: In the Shadow of the Valley of Death’. There are just three songs from the new album tonight. One of which is a nice little romantic ditty called 'Pretty As A Swastika', Mazza showing all his usual charm. Another is the wonderful ‘Devour’, which could almost be described as mellow.

The album is said to be a step back in the right direction after his previous one ‘Eat Me Drink Me’ bombed and nothing is played from that tonight. A lot of this is credited to the return of long time guitarist and co-songwriter Twiggy Ramirez who didn’t work on that particular record. Don’t know if they fell out or not but they appear to be best buddies again tonight.

Going through his back catalogue has enabled me to unearth the absolute gems that are the moody ‘Coma’ songs, ‘Coma White’ and ‘Coma Black’. I couldn’t tell you for certain whether it was just ‘Coma White’ tonight or whether he wove a bit of ‘Black’ in there as well, but it was the highlight of the evening for me.

There were also several heavier, more growling numbers, notably the stuff from his ‘Antichrist Superstar’ album, although he gives it a longer more expletive filled title but tracks such as ‘Dried Up, Tied and Dead to the World’ and ‘Little Horn’ leave me largely unmoved.

A few expletives apart, I thought Manson was rather well-behaved tonight, there was actually less swearing that that provided by the support band, there were of course plenty of drugs references but this also included a lecture against their use, maybe serious, maybe not, as he launched in to popular ‘The Dope Show’.

He obviously adapts his props to where he is, draping himself in the Union flag at one stage and even bringing on Robin Hood at one point. ‘Robbing from the bitch and giving to the whore’ he explains. Ok so perhaps there was more bad language than I thought.

With the excellent ‘Rock is Dead’ we’re clearly heading towards the conclusion and he closes with a couple of covers, not ‘Personal Jesus’ or ‘Tainted Love’, we get ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ and Patti Smith’s ‘Rock n Roll Nigger’. As we were saying afterwards, no one really admits to liking Patti Smith but everybody seems to cover her songs.

After which it wasn’t so much an exit as a disappearance, with the smoke and the darkness it was actually hard to tell whether the band had gone or were just lurking in the shadows. They reappeared just as mysteriously to play us out with 'The Beautiful People' accompanied by streams of ticker tape pumped out from the stage. Leaving someone a lot of clearing up to do before the next Ice Hockey match.

Marilyn Manson’s star may have faded a touch but he and his band can still put on a good show. Whilst mixing in some nicely dark humour and a decent light show, although along with the smoke, the lights make it a bit naff for photography. The smoke also often makes it hard to see, was he ceremoniously burning the bible at one point? At under an hour and a half, it was also short and punchy, and all delivered with bundles of energy. Nice one Brian.

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