Photo: Eric Scott Russell
Monday night's adventure into evil with Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson at West Valley's USANA Amphitheater was a good way to kick off the cooling temperatures of fall and celebrate a month that is already obsessed with horror and devilry. It's a safe assumption that Halloween may some day be more popular than Christmas, especially in a culture that continues to be obsessed with dark and scary imagery from the fun and silly to the downright gruesome.
That growing obsession is quickly turning into a world culture of desensitized folks and the once shocking seems mundane. Is it the decay of mankind and civilization? Not at all—my opinion stands that it's the ease of gathering media and the generation of “I want it now” folks.
Pardon my rambling—it will be interspersed with an actual concert review. I'm not quite sure how the decision was made to have a DJ open up the night with two of the most shocking modern rock acts (in the pop-ish realm), but it happened. DJ Starscream, pretty obviously named after the famous Transformers Decepticon, served as a last-minute replacement for DJ JDevil, or whatever that guy who sings for Korn is trying to do now. Starscream is a member of Slipknot—not quite sure what he does in the band, considering that Slipknot has about five members too many. I know the point of DJs and scratching records to an extent, but my fashion goes more for Industrial or music that has something that resembles a beat. Starscream seemed to have a lot of noise with a bunch of bass hits that ultimately came off as annoying. Also fruitless was a non-functioning T-shirt shooting gun, but hey, it actually made the gathering crowd cheer.
The idea of stacking the duo of Manson and Zombie seems like it would have worked really well maybe 10 to 15 years ago. But who am I to pass judgment on a likely 9,000 folks coming out on a Monday night to rock? From the beginning, Manson faltered, which actually was a disappointment for me, especially growing up as a teen and having the Sayers of No condemn the man for being too perverse and shocking. The big miss in the show wasn't really even Marilyn Manson's fault—his vocals, which are probably three fourths of what Marilyn Manson actually stands for, were drowned out by mundane drums and guitar. For the entire set, it was a struggle to hear Manson.
In an interesting punk rock fashion Manson, also seemed like he didn't really care that he was there and performing. That didn't stop him from prancing the stage in what looked like a drunken “fuck you” stupor. Maybe that's Manson's style—I've never seen the man before. Manson also seemed to suffer the “first to play” syndrome. It was pretty obvious that a guy known for putting on some elaborate stage shows was hindered by what he could actually set up. And the stage changes seemed clunky—probably a bit of kink working out due to the fact that the tour is about three dates in.
The next big gripe was song selection. The three “obligatory” new songs made sense, and actually worked pretty well, which percolated some interest in hearing the new offering for me. The rest of the song selection seemed pretty crowd-catering, playing the tunes Manson and crew suspected fans wanted to hear. The guy has a ton of records with plenty of other crowd pleasers and relying on the more popular cover songs “Sweet Dreams” and “Personal Jesus” seemed like a cop out especially for a limited, timed set. “Tourniquet,” however was a nice surprise. Overall, it just felt sloppy and if you have Rob “Perfectionist” Zombie following you, it kind of makes you the sore thumb for your lead and other band members to look and act like they could give a flying fuck they were performing. Last but not least, piping in canned recorded crowd chants of “Hey” was about the saddest, most pathetic damn thing I've heard/seen in a while. If you're too inept to get the audience to chant those “heys,” then just forget the whole thing. It's like the laugh track in bad TV sitcoms.
And then there's Rob “love him or hate him” Zombie. In terms of slickness, style and polished fanciness Zombie came out—fire, tits and gore blazing with about every available space of stage set to overload the audiences senses. It kind of made Manson look like a subtle turd in a way. The crowd showed its colors every minute that Zombie blasted with fire spewing from the stage and video assaults of horror imagery, which included an odd homage to the Manson (Charles Manson) family, and puppets and robotic contraptions gracing the stage. Basically, all of the props were on stock from last year's “Gruesome Twosome” tour with Alice Cooper give or take a clunky robotic looking device Zombie rode across the stage during “Mars Needs Women.”
Musically Zombie delivers exactly what his fans want: demonstrative grooves in the guitar department—nothing complex just pounding—loud, fast drumbeats drum and a whole hell of a lot of repeated phrases in the form of lyrics. If you repeat “Rock Motherfucker, Rock Motherfucker” enough, I guess it's going to get stuck in anyone's head. There's also a sense of irony in the fact that, in Rob Zombie's films, the core of the victims of violent deaths are rednecks or white trash. What did the Zombie concert crowd demographic consist a lot of? They looked a lot like what Zombie would have as a victim in one of his films. Does that mean, idealistically, Rob Zombie wants to kill most of his fans? I'll leave that thought to you.
If you judge the crowd's fun level at the show on Monday night, it was in maximum overdrive. All in all, it was a visual spectacle, and I doubt any folks who spent hard-earned cash be it the cheap lawn tickets or the front GA section and the ever flowing beer, walked out of the show disappointed.
Last cynical thought for you kind folks—if you want to be truly shocked or get in the mode where “it feels good to be bad” look to the underground—you don't even have to look to hard. There are still artists pushing the evil, and laugh in the face of the politically correct. R.I.P. Seth Putnam.