'98's Best: Shock-Rocker Marilyn Manson Brings Oz To Kansas

New, colorful spectacle of a show offers more fuel for Manson's battalion of critics.

[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at

1998's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Tuesday, Oct. 27.]

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Goth-turned-glam artist Marilyn Manson came to

this Midwestern city Monday night and showcased a live tour that will do

little to quell his detractors and a lot to solidify his image as the

sultan of shock rock.

Marilyn Manson kicked off the opening night of his highly anticipated

Mechanical Animals tour with a high-octane rock spectacle that

disappointed fans only in its lack of an encore. The 70-minute, 13-song

set

incorporated several elements from the shock rocker's past tours, as

well

as new elements that seem likely to draw fire from his legion of vocal

opponents.

As if Manson's critics needed any more reasons to rail against his

concerts, the 29-year-old singer appeared eager to hand them ammunition

with the new tour in support of the recently released album, making the

most of the theatrical potential of songs such as "I Don't Like The Drugs (But The Drugs Like Me)" (RealAudio excerpt).

For the live rendition of the cut -- Manson's most enticingly

groove-filled

song to date -- a stage-long sign flashing "DRUGS" was lowered from the

ceiling. As the prop flashed with casino-like glitz, it seemed

increasingly hard to discern any sort of anti-drug message

from the song.

While his critics surely will have something to say about the choice of

props, his fans couldn't have been more satisfied.

"It was worth driving nine hours for," said 50-year-old Chicagoan Nancy

Alunni, who comprised half of what was probably one of the few

mother-daughter teams at Monday's show. Alunni and her 18-year-old

daughter, Alicia, have now seen 16 Manson concerts.

While several street debates erupted between members of a local

church and

Manson's fans after the show, the scene outside the 3,000-seat

Memorial Hall

was uneventful prior to the concert. The relative calm contrasted

sharply

with the previous night, when conservative Christian demonstrators

turned out

with anti-homosexuality banners to protest at Manson's warm-up gig at a club

in Lawrence, Kan.

The always outspoken Manson used the stage as his pulpit,

preaching to fans

about the protesting of the previous night in as defiant a tone

as ever.

"A bunch of protesters said they hated fags," Manson said

during Monday

night's show, his voice oozing contempt. "I sucked every one of

their dicks."

While Sunday's show in Lawrence was a stripped-down, club-sized version of the

set, the Memorial Hall show featured the complete Marilyn Manson Glam-Rock

Revue. Onstage, his namesake band, which included drummer Ginger Fish and

keyboardist Madonna Wayne Gacy, was set apart on circular risers

ringed at

the bottom with several static-filled televisions.

As a showman and creator, Manson is a stickler for detail, and the

televisions served a variety of functions for his performance. In addition

to highlighting the "God is in the TV" assertion from the powerful track

"Rock Is Dead," their blank screens seemed to underscore the numbness

brought on by the drugs that dripped thematically throughout the set.

The televisions' symbolic vacancy was particularly poignant later when

Manson staged a mock Nazi rally during the song "Antichrist Superstar," a

reprised number from his tour last year in support of the album of the same

name.

While Manson's clear intention was to lash out strikingly at

fascism, the

vast majority of his fans in Kansas City were all too happy to

throw their

fists in the air in Manson's direction, demonstrating the type of blind

faith that Manson seemed to be speaking against.

During Mechanical Animals, Manson also brought back the

awkward stilts and

crutches he first used on the Antichrist Superstar tour.

During

that outing, the stilts played a grotesque visual role

accenting themes of

bondage and release.

On the current tour, however, with its focus on Manson's new glam-rock look

and sound, they felt more like mere leftovers. But they were leftovers that

this crowd consumed voraciously.

True to the current glam theme, Manson (born Brian Warner) underwent

several costume changes throughout the show.

He first appeared in the now-familiar blue bodysuit that includes

diamond-shaped sequin patches as well as a cutaway rear-end. In

5-inch-high platform heels, the already lanky Manson looked as gangly

and elongated as a praying mantis.

He later donned a leather trench coat and hat for a subdued run through

"The Speed Of Pain" before finally settling on a red, sequined teddy with

more matching platforms for the remainder of the show.

Despite the coldness of the televisions and the lyrics of songs such as

"Posthuman" ("God is just a statistic"), the Mechanical Animals

shows may prove to be Manson's most inviting tour ever.

New guitarist John5 adds a more organic sound with his acoustic work on

"The Speed of Pain," and backup singers Kim Nail and Kat Ayerz suggest a

sense of harmony (literally and figuratively) onstage heretofore unknown

for a Manson performance.

Lori Zinna of Kansas City, Mo., was duly impressed, though she didn't know

if any Manson tour could live up to his past performances, events that left

her both scared and fascinated.

"He put on a good concert," Zinna said. "He really gave of himself and put

on a show."