You know you’ve just left a Marilyn Manson concert when you exit the venue and there’s already an ambulance and fire truck on scene.
The Antichrist Superstar arose in southern Connecticut on Friday night, whipping local metalheads into a diabolical frenzy as he and the up-and-coming ‘slut metal’ Butcher Babies presided over an evening of raw heavy metal vehemence.
Years after Marilyn Manson became a household name, his legendary shows are still enough of a draw that not even freezing snow and icy roads could stop Connecticut fans from lining up outside the Oakdale Theatre, an innocent-looking venue off the I-95 corridor. While well over an hour away from New York City, those of us who drove up for the show were rewarded with a night of extreme metal and Manson’s trademark showmanship.
First up, however, were the Butcher Babies, the Playmate-fronted band rapidly making a name for themselves with their high energy shows and unabashed sexuality. The busty, leather-clad Heidi and Carla are captivating on stage, roaring and growling their vocals over thrashing riffs laid down by the three man band behind them. Fans sang along to their first single, Mr. Slowdeath, as both girls marched, grinded and jumped across the stage, striking larger-than-life poses as they brought the crowd to life with their mixture of melodic verse-trading and all-out death metal shrieking.
Their final song kickstarted a mosh pit in the center of the floor with its hardcore riffs, one that would prove to be the best pit of the night, and despite the crowd’s unfamiliarity with the music, there’s no question that the Butcher Babies are on the fast track to metal stardom with their winning formula of sexy grindcore. (See more pictures and read about the Butcher Babies’ summer show at Webster Hall here.)
But even a strong opening set was nothing compared to the Marilyn Manson experience. Heavy metal’s favorite villain has atoned for a multi-year absence with almost a year of straight touring, hitting the outer markets last year (read about his first show at the Paramount Theater in Long Island here) before hitting the big cities with Rob Zombie, and is now swinging around again to further cement his 20 year legacy.
Opening up with new song Hey Cruel World, the glowering singer threw himself into a whirlwind of swirling distortion with dramatic screams and wails, clutching a microphone adorned with brass knuckles. Manson’s newest record, Born Villain, is a deep exploration of psychological trauma and bubbling violence, and his on-stage presence radiated that pathos across the sea of black-wearing, spike-wielding worshippers.
Front row fans could practically feel the spit and spray as Manson cavorted around, howling through fan favorite Disposable Teens before donning a Pope-like outfit for the Love Song. While recent tragic events in Connecticut might have prompted fears of this tour stop’s cancellation, the local crowd had no problem screaming out for “guns, gods and government!”
There was also a strong response to new songs No Reflection and Slo-Mo-Tion, the latter of which has become one of this Examiner’s favorites. Fans seemed to know every word, and sang along as Manson drew out the very end of Slo-Mo-Tion in his typical exhorting fashion.
But the best reactions of the night came for old favorites like The Dope Show, Rock Is Dead and Sweet Dreams, which were delivered in all their violent glory and punctuated with blasts of confetti over the crowd. The end of Sweet Dreams saw Manson abusing his band on stage as they tore through the guitar solo and outro, playing even as they were forced to their knees and dragged around by their depraved leader.
Like his last few tours, Manson included the softer Coma White, singing the darkly gentle ballad under a shower of falling snow that mimicked the weather outdoors. Despite all the violent imagery and buzzsaw guitar riffs, Manson is often at his best when exploring his softer side, and the five minutes of Coma White were among the most moving of the night.
It was only a brief respite, though, as the show finished with the triple hit combination of Antichrist Superstar, The Beautiful People, and Irresponsible Hate Anthem. The feverish bible-shredding, hate-spewing Manson was right on his game as he ranted and screamed atop a podium, and while a full-fledged mosh pit never quite broke out, that didn’t stop the wildest fans from stomping and smashing around the floor until the very last blast of raging music.
The Marilyn Manson of 2013 has become a very different performer from the media-demonized frontman of the ‘90s, but while his music and show have evolved, he remains as captivating as ever. His inner artist has emerged with more thought-provoking lyrics and exchanged raw nihilism for subtle provocativeness, yet without sacrificing his vicious heavy metal edge. And Friday night’s performance proved that when it comes to the older material, the God of F*ck hasn’t lost a single sadistic vitriolic step.
Now that Manson has gotten back into the full groove of writing and touring, one can only hope that this cycle continues for at least a few more tours. And right behind him are the young, hungry and smoking hot Butcher Babies, who fans will get to see again this summer on a yet-to-be-announced tour that will come as no real surprise to metalheads around the country.
Brace yourself America, Marilyn Manson is back and he's ready to kick your ass.
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Additional photos from this and other concerts can also be seen on my tumblr: Heavy Metal NYC.