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Rob Zombie And Marilyn Manson - O2 Arena, London - 26th November 2012 (Live Review)

Tuesday, 27 November 2012 Written by Alec Chillingworth
Rob Zombie And Marilyn Manson - O2 Arena, London - 26th November 2012 (Live Review)

Before I use up every single superlative imaginable later on in this review, I feel like I should explain the foul mood looming over me as I entered the lavishly corporate O2 Arena last night. I was feeling a bit poorly and everything was annoying me. My train had been delayed by over an hour due to flooding. I didn’t actually have my tickets for the show; I assume that my postman had pocketed them at some point (I always knew there was something shifty about him). To add insult to injury, the O2 wouldn’t let me collect my duplicate tickets until twenty-five minutes before doors opened, so the prospect of a mile-long queue just made me very, very grumpy indeed. Basically, this gig needed to be brilliant.

ImageThe Twins Of Evil tour must serve as a monumental challenge for Marilyn Manson (known as Brian Warner to his Mum). His last few albums have been somewhat wobbly; whilst latest effort 'Born Villain' is a vast improvement, it just doesn’t come close to the quality of the sumptuous sonic treats he was feeding to us pre-2003. Also, the fact that he’s co-headlining with one of the most critically lauded live acts of recent years must be, as some would say, ‘rustling his jimmies’.

The eerie intro to new track 'Hey, Cruel World…' slithers out of the speakers, signalling the start of London’s descent into Hell. The curtain drops to reveal Manson and his ghoulish entourage, all looking respectably creepy. As the grinding industrial guitars kick in, so does Manson; he sounds genuinely ferocious for the duration of the song. However, he has been known to give somewhat lacklustre performances in the past, and whilst he is by no means lazy, he just can’t seem to keep up these levels of sheer animosity. As a result, the show suffers; sporadic bursts of rage pepper Mr. Manson’s otherwise pedestrian vocal performance.

The band themselves are on fine form, with long-time member Twiggy Ramirez still managing to remain disturbingly handsome whilst wearing a leather dress. New-ish bassist Fred Sablan finally seems to have become a fully-fledged part of the band, looking suitably evil whilst churning out hit after hit. Of course, the show is still all about Mr. Manson. He has enough costume changes to rival Lady Gaga; looking like a swing-movement reject during ‘mOBSCENE’, right down to wearing the timeless Bishop outfit for the doom-laden dirge that is ‘The Love Song’. The inclusion of set pieces adds an extra dimension to the show, with the instantly recognisable dictatorial podium making a welcome return during ‘Antichrist Superstar’.

Hardcore fans of the band might be upset that songs from debut album ‘Portrait Of An American Family’ aren’t being aired tonight. Admittedly, this is a disappointment, as the lack of tunes such as ‘Cake And Sodomy’ and ‘Lunchbox’ does leave a noticeable hole in the set. However, the inclusion of grandiose ballad ‘Coma White’ compensates for this, showering the audience in a beautiful coat of fake snow towards the end.

Compared to Manson’s abysmally painful performance at 2009’s Download Festival, this set seems like a revelation. The man remembers his lines, attempts a bit of crowd banter (nobody really understands what he’s saying, though), and looks like he actually wants to be on stage. But you shouldn’t really congratulate him for remembering his own lyrics; he’s been singing for nearly two decades. And why is he throwing his microphone on the floor after every song? Why is he spitting his drink all over that poor security guard? Why on earth is he singing chunks of the set whilst lying down? I don’t have the answers, ladies and gentlemen; just be thankful that Manson can still be bothered to put on a decent show.

If an official ‘Blow your co-headliner clean off the stage’ competition ever popped into existence, then Rob Zombie would surely win. Appearing on stage via the medium of a 12 ft robot is exactly how he would do it. Yes, that’s right. This actually happened. Opening his set with the melodramatic stomp of ‘Jesus Frankenstein’ really is a spectacle to behold; Zombie and his undead brethren clad in matching Union Jack trench coats only adds to the gravity of the unfolding madness.

Mr. Zombie’s dabbling in the film industry shines through tonight; screens projecting distorted scenes from classic horror movies perfectly compliment his unique brand of spooky industrial metal. There is always something going on, whether it’s a giant pumpkin man whacking out successions of sweat-inducing dance moves, or a backdrop of scorching pyrotechnics. But it doesn’t detract from the quality of the music. Not one bit. Unfathomable levels of charisma simply reside in the very heart of this band; guitarist John 5 is an absolute wonder to behold, shredding away at his axe whilst Rob throws an inflatable beach ball at him (there were also beach balls. Did I mention the beach balls?). Zombie himself breaks the mould of ‘serious metal frontman’, humorously egging the crowd on between songs and even standing at the barrier during White Zombie classic ‘More Human Than Human’. Sprinting across the stage like a homeless version of Bruce Dickinson, Zombie’s energetic delivery puts Manson to shame (especially given the fact that he is 4 years Manson’s senior).

Egos are kept in check, as Mr. Zombie allows ample time for his merry men to show London their playing chops. Most people tend to grumble at the concept of a drum solo at a gig, yet tub-basher Ginger Fish (I highly suspect that this isn’t his real name) blends his primitive drumming technique with sound bites from horror movies. This makes for a thoroughly interesting two and a half minutes, rather than the usual toilet break during a drum solo. John 5’s guitar solo also adds extra flavour to proceedings, as his technical style tends to go unnoticed and unappreciated in his contributions to the Manson and Zombie albums he’s played on in the past. Zombie even has the balls to screen a trailer for his upcoming film ‘The Lords Of Salem’ in between songs. These ridiculously high levels of showmanship just make it seem like Zombie is the real headliner, whilst Manson merely adopts the role of the support act.

All bases are covered tonight; fan favourites such as ‘Meet The Creeper’ and ‘Scum Of The Earth’ are interspersed with newer material such as ‘Mars Needs Women’ and the infectiously catchy anthem of ‘Sick Bubblegum’. Of course, it’s the inevitable encore of immortal single ‘Dragula’ that truly squirts the icing on top of this decomposing, fiendish cake. It’s just something that I can’t explain; watching Zombie and his crew absolutely owning the stage, then turning around and witnessing the entirety of the O2 Arena sing along to a band that hasn't really had massive levels of mainstream success on these shores. Because who needs a Number 1 album when you have copious amounts of confetti and a seemingly endless supply of beach balls instead? You don’t even need to answer that question.

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