written by Wendy Jasper-Martinez
May 12, 2012 @ Sunken Garden Theater, San Antonio, Texas
Openers: The Pretty Reckless and The Heroine
Over the years, as a journalist, I have found that bands come and go, but few hold my interest enough that I could imagine still going to see them nearly twenty years after the first meeting. In 1994 a group of Spooky Kids came to Houston on their first tour and I had the pleasure of interviewing a cynical yet wise young man named Brian Warner. Tall, thin and pale, with long black hair and tattoos, Warner, who bears the stage moniker Marilyn Manson, was the poster boy for the vampire generation. Grotesque humor, witticisms, and analytical commentary directly related to his personal life colored his controversial lyrics. What was he trying to say? And would anyone buy it?
“I wanted to put together two of the most famous cultural figures of the 60’s and it amazed me that media would put Marilyn Monroe on the same level as Charles Manson and it was that dichotomy of good and evil that most adequately represented the character I was trying to portray,” he told me during that long ago interview while explaining his stage persona, and thus, the fascination with Marilyn Manson began. *
Incidentally, not only did people buy it, they devoured it worldwide. As Marilyn Manson was touring for their debut release, “Portrait of an American Family,” they were garnering attention from the media with their wild stage antics and gritty musical style. The album propelled them into the national spotlight and by the time their second release, “Smells Like Children” spawned a hit in the form of a cover of “Sweet Dreams (are made of this)”, the band had become an MTV standard.
However, it was not until the 1996 release of Manson’s concept album, “Antichrist Superstar” that he truly became a household name. With hits like “The Beautiful People”, “Tourniquet”, and “Irresponsible Hate Anthem,” the band was on the cover of every magazine, vilified by protesters and on heavy rotation with both video and radio play. The Dead to the World tour sold out worldwide and whether you loved him or hated him, you would certainly never forget him.
Manson followed up with albums like “Mechanical Animals” and “Holy Wood” to worldwide acclaim and in 2003 he released his most industrial piece, another concept album called “The Golden Age of Grotesque.” In addition to these works, Manson released his autobiography, appeared in movie cameos, directed and produced other artists, and achieved artistic fulfillment with several paintings that were positively reviewed.
In the last six years, however, Manson changed artistic direction and while his albums “Eat Me, Drink Me” and “The High End of Low” did not have the sales figures enjoyed by their predecessors, die-hard fans continued to purchase them with reverence. Manson attributed the dark direction of both releases to his personal struggles at the time, but he put that all behind him with the May 2012 release of his ninth studio album, “Born Villain.”
“Born Villain” is a return to the Manson of old and is being hailed as his comeback album. He has a new label, Cooking Vinyl Records, whom he partnered with his own label, Hell Inc., and has started his tour to sold out crowds. He attributes his split with former label, Interscope Records, as part of a return to the inventiveness he enjoyed with earlier releases, citing that Interscope had become creatively stifling with attempts to control the direction of his music.
“It takes a lot to humble yourself and admit that you’re making a comeback, but that’s what it has to be described as when you’ve gone through a period where you’ve not been everything you’ve supposed to be. Not ‘I’m not what I’m supposed to be’, because I don’t want to retrace the past, but more ‘I’m not what I need to be’,” Manson said in a recent interview with Metal Hammer Magazine. **
The weekend kicked off with a bang as the “Hey Cruel World” tour swung through Texas, starting with Dallas on Friday, May 11th, San Antonio on Saturday, May 12th and Houston on Sunday, May 13th. I attended the show in San Antonio, which was sponsored by 99.5 KISS FM and held at the historic Sunken Garden Theater.
The local opener, The Heroine, is fast becoming a staple on the San Antonio music scene. They had an interesting blend of punk, rockabilly, and metal. They gathered a decent crowd in the late afternoon though most fans were still trickling through the gates.
Following The Heroine was national recording artists The Pretty Reckless, fronted by actress turned singer Taylor Momsen. Who knew Cindy Lou Who*** could rock so hard? She is a fledgling artist without much touring experience, but she has great potential. She was on point throughout her performance and her tunes “Hit Me Like a Man” and “Make Me Wanna Die” are gaining popularity in today’s new glam genre.
Finally, the crowd got what they had eagerly been awaiting. As the black curtain went up, the more the anticipation built until the man himself appeared. Opening the set with the album’s first track, “Hey Cruel World” an older yet still antagonistic Manson took the crowd by storm. Without breaking stride he launched into older favorites like “Disposable Teens”, “Love Song,” and “Mobscene”.
The first single off “Born Villain”, a straightforward rock tune called “No Reflection” is not only climbing the charts but also managed to whip the crowd into a frenzy. He also shared two more songs from the new album; “Slo-mo-tion” and “Pistol Whipped” both have just the right amount of Manson sex appeal. Raucous renditions of “Rock Is Dead” , “The Dope Show” and “Personal Jesus” had the crowd singing along.
But what about the songs that garnered him worldwide adoration? He didn’t disappoint when the first strains of “Tourniquet” filled the air. All of the angst that infected a generation of disaffected youth was still evident as he screamed his way through “Irresponsible Hate Anthem”.
As he turned down the lights to spook the crowd with “Sweet Dreams” I once again felt like it was 1994, crowded against the stage inside the small confines of Instant Karma in Houston or The Back Room in Austin. I was reminded of how far he had come from those days as the road crew set the stage for the encore. As the gargantuan pulpit was rolled out onto the stage and he started to rise amid flashing lights, the audience coordinated into one large fist pump as the strains of “Antichrist Superstar” filled the air. Like a flopping marionette he revisited his 1996 stage show with vigor.
The final song of the evening was undoubtedly the most anticipated. Fans of all ages sang along with “The Beautiful People” and it was surprising to see the generational differences of the fans in attendance.
While the crowd was not stadium capacity, it was a full house and I can only imagine that with his star once again on the rise that we will see him again headlining the largest of venues and continuing to startle us with his brand of disturbingly horrific fun.
*Interview with me in Sonic Boom Magazine, Houston, Texas (1994)
** Appears in the May 2012 Issues of Metal Hammer UK Magazine
***Momsen played Cindy Lou Who in Jim Carrey’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”