Review: Bellevue Eastside Journal

Metamorphosis for Manson, Hole
by Claude Flowers, March 3, 1999

Love’s emotion steals Marilyn’s hollow show

If rock ‘n’ roll concerts were sold like cars, Sunday’s gig in Spokane would have been pitched as “The all-new Marilyn Manson and Hole! Redesigned for the new millennium!”

At the launch of their 1999 tour, it was obvious both bands have changed over the past few years. Seattle fans can see for themselves tonight at KeyArena – plenty of tickets were still available yesterday.

With their latest CD, “Mechanical Animals,” singer Marilyn Manson and his bandmates (guitarists Twiggy Ramirez and John 5, keyboardist Madonna Wayne Gacy and drummer Ginger Fish) ditched the dreary Goth look for glam- futuristic, often feminine stage outfits, lipstick and white facepaint.

Musically, Manson has gotten better. The 1996 controversial CD, “Antichrist Superstar,” and the rest of the band’s early records were intentionally discordant. At times, Manson’s voice was altered in the recording studio, often taking on a grating, machinelike quality. In terms of shock value, these early works delivered, but they were tough to enjoy.

“Mechanical Animals” finds Marilyn Manson repressing its extremism. “The Speed Of Pain” owes much to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig In the Sky.” “Fundamentally Loathsome” is actually a blues experiment.

A few four-letter words aside, “Mechanical Animals” is easy on the ears.

Hole has undergone a similar metamorphosis. Hole’s latest, “Celebrity Skin,” finds value and delight in life where the group’s previous album in 1994, “Live Through This,” couldn’t get past frustration.

Courtney Love, who pursued a lucrative film career between the release of these albums, remains the group’s driving force.

Flirting, scowling, joking with her bandmates, she’s at home onstage.

Love delivered, even by her own standards, a strong performance Sunday, when the Monster Magnet opened for Manson and Hole at the Spokane Arena. She played to a less-than-enthusiastic, half capacity crowd of Manson fans, but poured her heart into the show.

“I’m from Oregon, but I lived in Seattle,” Love reminded concertgoers. And the fans couldn’t help but think of Love’s relationship with the man she called her, “really sweet boyfriend,” her late husband, Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain.

Songs written during the final months of Cobain’s life took on an especially sharp edge. In the magnificent “Miss World,” Love growled the line, “I am the girl you know, can’t look you in the eye,” the final word tearing into a shriek.

The set closer, a requiem for Cobain entitled “Northern Star,” reduced Love to tears. Sniffling as the last notes faded away, she said, “I love Washington so much . . . They’re not going to get this (kind of concert) in San Francisco. I hope you valued it.”

Not all of Hole’s show was so wrenching. An improvised rendition of the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” performed by Love and Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson, was met with silence. It was apparent that most of the audience had never heard the tune before.

Love was dumbstruck. “All you little punks . . . go get yourself a Velvet Underground record . . . you can send me the bill,” she said.

Pink Floyd’s “Time” rang over the P.A. system as Marilyn Manson assumed command. Curtains parted, revealing Manson himself lying on a cross built of TV sets.

Where Hole’s concert had been founded on emotion and confidence, Marilyn Manson’s was built with special effects and bluster. Like the consumer culture the band riles against, the show looked stunning but said nothing.

Manson swapped an impressive winged costume for a backless gold dress and evening gloves, and, finally, black slacks, black jacket, and corset. During “Mechanical Animals,” he loped from stage left to stage right on stilts.

A reenactment of a Nazi rally, with Manson leading fans in a raised-fist salute, was momentarily disturbing. Horror disintegrated as Manson’s “control” over his fans, so often the cause of fear among parents, was shown to be no control at all.

After listening to “The Beautiful People,” the audience had had their fill, and began filing out.

By the time Marilyn Manson finished its last encore, the arena was less than a quarter filled.

In concert, Manson uses controversy to prop up a hollow performance. Rather than provoke thought, it pushes buttons. Ultimately, it’s as scary as a carnival funhouse, but at $29.50 a ticket, more expensive.

Before showtime, protesters gathered outside the venue to complain of the band’s “anti-Christian message.”

“We don’t want this in Spokane. (Manson) worships the devil and brings demonic spirits with him,” said Debbie Green of Spokane’s Victory Faith Fellowship.

Asked which songs she specifically objected to, Green said, “I’ve not heard the band, but I don’t much care for what (Marilyn Manson) represents.”

Green and her companions, about a dozen in number, could have saved themselves the hassle. Marilyn Manson’s stage show makes you wonder if the band really stands for anything.