The self-proclaimed antichrist superstar, Marilyn Manson, has had a tumultuous year. Between the delayed album release, the summer festival circuit, a family tragedy, drama with band members, and even an on-stage injury, it was almost a surprise this tour actually got going. Nevertheless, they persevered. Heaven Upside Down was released October 6th, and the corresponding tour started at Jäähalli in Helsinki on November 12th.
Full disclosure: I’ve never been a huge Marilyn Manson fan. My background is in metal and their sound never really had enough riffs or song progression to pique my interest. That being said, I’ve always admired the man’s delivery and style. This would be my first time seeing him live and I found myself curious.
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The opening act was a DJ by the name of Amazonica. It was pretty much what you’d expect from a DJ. The lady was alone on stage with her table full of doodads. She mostly played half a song and sometimes just bastardized a riff. The choices ranged from rock classics such as AC/DC, Nirvana, Black Sabbath, and even The Beatles, over to pop and house. Opening for an iconic act was a thankless job and she did the best she could. I couldn’t help but feel a live band would have fared better.
Before Marilyn Manson started their set, there was an almost unseemly pause. From my vantage point, I could see them prepping the stage before the show. There was one big prop in the center but not much else. Instead, they had a huge black tent that took a quarter of the stage. The drums were to the side to accommodate it. What lay inside the mystery tent remained to be seen.
The soundtrack was mostly classic rock as well. Mötley Crüe, Dio, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, etc. I thought it was a mistake until the actual intro turned out to be “Screaming for Vengeance” by Judas Priest, which transitioned into David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust.”
The curtain fell to the beat of “Revelation#12” from the new album. Manson confirmed rumors of him having a broken ankle by appearing in a wheelchair tricked out to look like a throne. At first he was noticeably off-key, but considering his signature singing style, it didn’t seem to matter. His adjustable throne that let him appear standing or sitting at will was a novel idea; though he seemed very restless spinning around in it. After the first song he said, “Let’s just all get past the fact that he has been crippled by his own behavior.” He said it in a way that had a hint of good humor.
After “This is the New Shit”, to everyone’s surprise, he suddenly appeared standing. “Ah, you can break my leg but you can’t break my soul,” he exclaimed. He was in the front of the stage with his broken ankle propped up behind him. He had two stagehands dressed as paramedics standing by, directly behind him, as they started “Disposable Teens.” He then finished the song by freestyling anything off his head that rhymed with teen. It was rambling and weird. I’d never seen him before so it was hard to tell if he was just high on pain medication or if this was normal. He also defiantly insisted on dropping his mic after practically every song. That’s just desperate overkill.
In general, Manson’s vocals were in good shape. His screams had a lot of power and rasp behind them. However, the older material especially had so many rapid-fire sections that they simply couldn’t be done live convincingly with just one singer. The two guitarists helped out a bit but this could have benefited from just a little bit of backing track.
For “Sweet Dreams”, the medics helped him onto a gurney. It seemed a cute way for him to rest his leg. From there he waved a light around the dimly lit stage. The crowd also waved their phones, producing a gorgeous, romantic scene akin to the night sky. The crowd would later reprise that for “Coma White”, which was a compelling performance from Manson and crew. These rare moments of perfect synchronicity between the artists and fans were wonderful things to behold. On the other end of the spectrum, there were also moments such as when, during “Deep Six”, a girl in the audience went topless and climbed on a friend’s shoulders (how very retro). She got shooed down by the ever-vigilant bouncers almost instantly. Brought back to earth from Gomorrah…
Almost all of the costume changes were just jackets they draped on him between songs. One was a hideous red raincoat, another was a Cruella Deville -esque fur coat. He did still don his weird fascist-chic outfit for “The Beautiful People” at the end of the night. For most of the show, Manson would alternate between either standing up or sitting on his throne. To preserve the mystery, they had to bring the stage-lights down every time. Those paramedics had to work overtime.
During “We Know Where You Fucking Live”, he was wheeled around the stage in a regular wheelchair. It was hilarious. It was a great idea to lean into the tragedy and just make it out to be a bit of a laugh. So instead of it being sad, it’s actually funny. To their credit, they came up with a lot of variation on it as well. The big tent on stage was presumably there for all these props on wheels.
Before the set drew to a close they did another song from Heaven Upside Down, “Say10.” Manson sat on his throne wearing a crown of thorns while screaming a poppy song about Satan. The obvious pun aside, the atmosphere was absolutely perfect. The way he sang the line, “You say ‘God’ and I say ‘Say 10′” made the word “God” sound scary and judgmental whilst “Say 10” is just adorable. I think that was the mood they were going for. Surprisingly, it ended up as one of the highlights for me.
Of course they had to do “The Beautiful People” at the end. They even had some backing vocals. The crowd was really into it and the quasi-Nazi outfit helped sell it. They followed up with “Lunchbox”, which Manson aborted near the end. Then he turned to his guitarist and started singing “Killing Strangers.” The band never fully joined in. After the first chorus, they stopped entirely and left the stage, never to return. I was left to assume Manson might have gotten tired on account of his leg and they had to cut it just a bit short. It was a pretty lackluster finish, but understandable.
I never thought I’d use this phrase, but Marilyn Manson was worth seeing just for the wheelchair. The changes between chairs and the standing position were creative and fun. Unfortunately, it also meant an inordinate amount of time was spent in the dark silence, waiting for something to happen. It was hard to tell which point was encore-baiting and which was just a long transition. The set was good enough for me but I can see how it would stick in someone’s craw. That there were enough classics and a couple songs from the latest album was pretty standard. Even though it wasn’t really my thing and the flow was a mess, based on this show I might be interested in seeing them again when they return to Finland next summer. I’m sure they’ll have another crazy spectacle ready by then.
2. This is the New Shit
3. Disposable Teens
6. Deep Six
7. The Dope Show
9. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
11. WE KNOW WHERE YOU FUCKING LIVE
13. The Beautiful People
14. Coma White
16. Killing Strangers
Photos: Janne Puronen