Manson's 'Dope Show' Drops In On Kansas Town

Rocker Marilyn Manson pleases crowd with new glam material from his latest album, Mechanical Animals.

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- There was no Bible ripping, no flag desecration

and none of the oft-rumored-but-rarely-documented sexual conduct onstage

during Sunday's (Oct. 25) first show of shock-rocker Marilyn Manson's new

Mechanical Animals tour.

There was, however, a bit of bare ass, a bone-crushing sound system and

a high-caliber rock 'n' roll set that was part Kiss, part "Creepshow" and 100

percent Manson.

And there was, as expected, a group of protesters on hand to let Manson and

his followers know they did not approve of their actions.

On the eve of his official tour opener in Kansas City, Kan., Marilyn Manson took

the stage at the 680-capacity Granada club just after 9 p.m. When fans --

some of whom had traveled hundreds of miles and waited hours in line for

the unscheduled club gig -- were finally greeted by their hero, he sported

a fading red hair-dye job and wore a blue bodysuit spotted by diamond-shaped

patches of sequins.

As soon as Manson turned around, he revealed a rear-end covered only by a

sequined thong.

While songs such as "Irresponsible Hate Anthem" and "Mr.

Superstar," from Manson's 1996 breakthrough, Antichrist Superstar,

packed some of the 70-minute set's strongest punches, it was material from

the recently

released Mechanical Animals that really set the crowd alight. On

songs such as "The Dope Show" (RealAudio excerpt) and "I Don't Like The Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me)" (RealAudio excerpt), the Granada crowd found enough groove to even start

dancing.

Although the 29-year-old Manson (born Brian Warner) jettisoned

controversial elements from past tours (such as the tearing of pages from

the Bible and using the American flag to wipe himself) during this

performance, Manson critics were still on hand to show their opposition.

For 45 minutes before show time, two dozen members of Topeka, Kan.'s

Westboro Baptist Church demonstrated across from the Granada, holding signs

with such slogans as "God Hates Fags" in protest of Manson, who they

contend promotes perversion.

Charles Hockenbarger, 24, of Topeka, organized the protest.

"This pervert known as Marilyn Manson is spreading his message wide and far

that you can pervert anything and everything," Hockenbarger said. "You can't twist the word of God. Look at him -- he's a perverted freak."

If Manson were aware of the protesters, he never acknowledged it in his set.

Instead, he appeared focused on acting the part of rock 'n' roll showman.

With his eyes shadowed red, his lips painted the same and the rest

of his face caked in white, Manson looked more like a clown at times than

the demonic rocker many had come to know him as. And some fans, at least,

seemed to approve.

"I like it better than that Satan-worshipping thing he had going on," said

Kevin Vorndran, 29, of Kansas City, Mo.

Behind him, however, the rest of his band looked as ghoulish as ever,

a cult of futuristic zombies torn from the pages of "Tales From The Crypt"

comics. Still, there was a glittery quality to the rest of Manson as well.

Drummer Ginger Fish and keyboardist Madonna Wayne Gacy were painted white,

while new guitarist John5 was decked out in a silver, sparkly two-piece

outfit. Bass

player Twiggy Ramirez, wearing a purple satin dress, looked as if he'd been

yanked from the set of dance-pop artist Michael Jackson's "Thriller" sci-fi

monster video.

Over the course of 14 songs -- cranked at a decibel level so high that it

literally shook the hair of some audience members -- Manson proved that,

despite his industrial-goth background, he and his band can rock out equally

well in the glam-rock arena. Parts of the show served as knowing critiques of

the current state of music. On Mechanical Animals' "Rock Is Dead," for

instance, he underscored his frustration with modern rock by bringing out a

pair of backup singers in the style of soul-pop singer Tina Turner, a move

that harkened back to the glory days of David Bowie and the Rolling Stones.

At times, Manson's live show emphasized Mechanical Animals' underlying theme of vulnerability.

On the title song, his facial expressions made him look like a playing-card

joker brought to life. The image pointed to

Manson as jester, toying with and manipulating the notion of himself as an

unfeeling harbinger of the apocalypse. As his chest heaved visibly during

the line "I'm not mechanical," it was obvious that the singer was throwing

his total energy into the performance. He appeared, if not tender, then at

least vulnerable in some way that he's avoided in the past.

The rest of the band rocked hard. During "Disassociative,"

John5 spun his head side to side with such fervor one half-expected it to fly

all the way around, like the demonically possessed lead character in the

"Exorcist" flick. In "Posthuman," Fish crashed out a drum solo that was

a potent display of pure aggression.

The full-blown Mechanical Animals tour won't launch until Monday (Oct.

26) night in Kansas City, Kan., but Manson's fans clearly enjoyed this first

taste of what's to come.

Some of the singer's more die-hard fans said the Granada show was just the

first of many they expect to see in the months ahead.

Jen Tressler, 19, of New York said she plans to attend a dozen more

shows on the upcoming 20-date tour. A veteran of 24 Manson concerts,

Tressler said she's gotten used to people protesting the shows.

"[Demonstrations] can just be ignored, like anything else," said Klyph Jones,

24, of Chicago, who has 32 Manson shows under his belt.