No babies were sacrificed. No children were molested. No sheep were
Disappointing news to be sure for the dour and the pious, the
chanting Christians and the weepy liberal-humanists who milled around to
protest Marilyn Manson's July 31 show at the Varsity Arena in Toronto.
If Manson's concert here proved anything, it is that the hysteria,
the sick fantasies produced by the repressed psyches of right-wing Xian
religious types and their unlikely but all-too-frequent bed partners,
the Dudley Do-Rights who make up the "liberal-humanist" secular middle
class ("Canadians Concerned About Violence In Entertainment"??? Go
picket an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie why don't ya?), are far more frightening than anything Manson could ever come up with. If the Rev. Manson has done nothing else, he has driven that point home in fine style.
And then there's the mainstream media, playing its usual double-faced
game. Namely: run endless sensationalistic and mostly inaccurate
stories about Manson and his run-ins with the aforementioned special interest
groups, and then run numerous editorials rife with the usual "we're so jaded and above it all" tone which these out-of-it twats always employ to give the
impression that they're "hip." "We're so tired of Manson. It's just
Alice Cooper again," they whine, as if any kid today could give a flying whizz
about a guy who last released a memorable album in 1973, you know, before most of Manson's fans were born.
And now even sad ol' golf-playing Alice himself has picked up on
this theme and started whining about Marilyn: "Ooooh, he's a Satanist, I
don't approve." Hey pal, who cares? -- shut the fuck up and go back to the friggin' golf course then with the rest of the sad old polyester men!
What a fucking prat, as they say in Britain.
The other big mainstream media know-it-all criticism of Manson lately
is that "he's making a lot of money with this act, you know, wink wink,
nudge nudge." Ahhhh excuse me, you warmed-over bunch of baby boomers, but Bob Dylan didn't make a lot of money with his "act" (well, maybe not
on his ludicrous born-again Xian album Slow Train Coming, har har!)?
The Beatles? The Rolling Stones? Nirvana? Since when is making money a
crime in rock 'n' roll, or a proof of insincerity? And Rev. Manson at
least gives you value for your dollar.
Which brings me to the actual show. It was pretty fucking great.
Yeah, the band plays too loud and reduces the more subtle moments of their
magnum opus Antichrist Superstar to a kind of sonic sludge, but whattya
gonna do in a venue as acoustically challenged as Toronto's crappy
Varsity Arena anyway? But no matter, because the sheer animal energy of Rev.
Manson carries the day: he makes Iggy Pop in his prime look like a slacker,
whether he's zipping around the stage on a pair of motorized stilts or thumping
the microphone enthusiastically into his chest. One of the show's early
highlights was a ripping techno-punk version of "Next Motherfucker"
from Manson's Lunchbox EP which proved that beyond all the
theatrics, this guy can just plain rock out like nobody's business. Manson
often seemed to be teetering on the edge of total exhaustion after
numbers like these, as he literally deconstructed his very being before your
eyes, taking it to the physical limit.
As for the more overtly theatrical elements of the show, they were intelligently rendered and would no doubt be over the heads of the protesters outside if they ever actually saw what they were getting so worked up about. The idiots who would label Manson a "fascist" after seeing the brilliant satire of a Nazi rally during the Antichrist Superstar tour are exactly the same kind of literally-minded humor-challenged doofuses who got all worked up over Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" or who still get in a lather when they hear the name Nietzsche. Is it Manson's fault if people are ignorant? And why would a man interested in promoting the concept of individual freewill and responsibility be attracted to fascism anyway? Duhhhhhh.
Funny to say then that Manson's too subtle for many people, yet this seems to be the case. The most overtly rebellious thing he did in Toronto was to play his rendition of Patti Smith's "Rock And Roll Nigger" after being threatened with arrest for doing so by the lame-brained Toronto police, who thought the nearly 20-year-old song "racist." Duhhhhh. The Rev. Manson patiently explained that the lyrics instead refer to all people who are oppressed for "being the way they are," for thinking and/or looking different. Then, after a heartfelt dedication to "the fucking Canadian Police Force," he of course played a blazing version of Smith's rebel anthem.
The question remains, after seeing this show, as to exactly what it is
that bothers so many people about Manson, who is basically a smart, talented rock performer who gives 110 percent on stage. The answer, I think,
lies in the core of the man's message.
Unlike the other theatrical rock performers to who he's often compared -- Cooper, KISS -- Manson's art is not merely meant for the passive consumption of spectacle. He's overtly rhetorical, constantly striving to influence his audience and uses his theatrics to implant within them the germ of his Satanic philosophy, which afterall is really a more colorful version of good ol' atheistic existentialism a la Nietzsche, Sartre and Camus. This theme was exemplified in Manson's forlorn reading of "Man That You Fear" at the show's conclusion, standing, as he was, alone at center stage, slowly buried beneath a barrage of artificial snow.
In a world in which the anaesthetized, TV-fed masses wait to be told what to think by slimy politicians, hypocritical religious leaders and conniving
corporations, Manson's true sin is to posit the notion that all of these people are full of shit, that the only way to live an authentic life is to take away their reins of power and remake yourself in your own image. To think for yourself: A notion that truly scares many people out of their wits.
Never mind the bollocks -- that's why they're protesting.