This guy must be doing something right. Whether it’s his bloody-throat vocals, dissent from mainstream culture or uncanny ability to identify an audience as “dirty mother-fuckers,” the crowd was going nuts. The largest turnout I’ve ever seen at the 9:30 Club was composed of listeners spanning a full range of age and attire, with only a select few decked out in full-blown Goth dress. It seems that Manson’s rejection of the norm is becoming more widely accepted. Funny how social protest sometimes pans out.
On his newest album, The Golden Age of Grotesque, Manson’s artistic message centers around politics, drawing parallels between contemporary America, pre-Nazi Germany and McCarthyism. Manson believes that American culture has adopted a self-imposed fascism that is inherent in any institution. In the “Grotesk Burlesk” tour, this message is displayed through the use of cultural symbols and imagery. The cabaret-themed show combines the old and the new, with a haywire collision of vaudeville, prosthetics and a neon red sign that reads, “mObscene.” Quoting the title of the album’s first track.
The show was an S&M paradise, complete with whips, chains, tongues and latex bodysuits worn by crowd members and onstage dancers alike. Apparently, Manson is a sex symbol. But whether or not you had plans to visualize his skills in action, Manson’s thrusting motions left little to the imagination. Personally, I didn’t find his skintight corset or six-foot prosthetic arms to be a turn-on.
After the main floor of the club was showered with red confetti, the razor-sharp baseline of “Dope Show” commenced. For a change, Manson allowed the audience to recognize that there were other things on stage than his lanky figure. A screen rolled out as a new focal point to display shadow silhouettes of two females fondling one another. The same dancers who chanted the words “be obscene” to a song off the new album were subject to Manson’s newest fascination with prosthetics, donning artificial genitals.
Manson believes that feminism has misconstrued power to reject sexuality, but after watching him stick a microphone between the legs of one of his dancers, it would seem that the singer has misconstrued humanism to reject personal dignity. I’m not easily offended, and I didn’t even leave the show offended as a woman, but simply offended as a human being.
Manson had a few other notable stage antics. To further distort the identity of American innocence, Manson conjured the image of Disney, wearing Mickey Mouse ears during a rendition of “It’s a Small World After All.” Covers also included a carelessly predictable interpretation of “Tainted Love.” He would have been better off sticking to his own material, and, thankfully, for the most part, he did – the set list was mainly composed of tracks off the new album.
Despite the fact that it was packed into the club like sardines, the crowd thrashed freely to antagonistic jolts from the electric guitar. Its energy was made apparent with extended strobe light illuminations whenever Manson demanded to get a good look at “Fuckers in mother-fucking Washington, D.C.” If you had been able to see past the crowd and Manson’s self-indulgent, overabundant Jesus poses, you would have seen that there was a band back there, all with bleached blonde hair to contrast Manson’s jet-black coiffe. Although Manson’s stage presence carried the show, bassist Tim Skold carried the actual music.
Going into the show, I didn’t expect the emphasis to be on the music. Conveying controversial messages is as much a part of Manson’s art as anything else, but my question is, what happens when this message is missed? On Saturday night, the explicit sexual overtones drowned out anything that remotely resembled a thought. Manson once said in a television interview, “Art is a question mark, and the public’s response is the statement.” So what’s my statement? Manson should start imitating better porn.