SLIPKNOT, MARILYN MANSON
The thing about magic is it only works if you believe in it, otherwise it’s all just smoke and mirrors; once you can see the string, it’s all over. And, frankly, we’ve been ignoring Marilyn Manson’s string for far too long; look, there it is, sticking out of his ass, like an old, forgotten tampon. I’ve been guilty of this myself, making excuses, defending the indefensible, but no more. Fuck that, and fuck Manson.
Our tale begins before he’s even on stage. Of Mice And Men have offered a competent set, reasonably engaging and enjoyable, even though the vocals don’t float my boat, and then I head to the photo pit for Manson, where we’re informed that we only get to shoot one song. The industry standard is three, but, y’know, Manson has to feel special, like back in the day when he was still a big deal and no one was allowed to make eye contact with him backstage. Whatever, it’s all part of how the trick works. They open with a shoddy sounding Angel With The Scabbed Wings.
At the end of the song Manson throws something at us, some sort of blue powder bomb, and I get it full in the face, in my eyes, all over my camera and clothes. Disposable Teens is next, but I’m on my way to the bathroom, trying to get this shit off me so I don’t look like something out of the Blue Man Group, and, more importantly, making sure my camera’s not fucked. Naturally, I’m extremely pissed off, ready to start throwing shit back at him if I wasn’t wary of getting thrown out.
Understandably, anything I say now will just sound biased, and perhaps so, but it works both ways. I get back for mOBSCENE, which was never a great song to begin with, and it sounds awful, then Cupid Carries A Gun, which is marginally better, but still far from a classic. And that, once the magic has gone, is the problem: Manson hasn’t written a classic in 20 years. One brilliant album, Antichrist Superstar, – relied upon heavily tonight – and the rest have either been Manson by numbers or very pale imitations of Bowie, with one or two good tunes carrying on into the set and the others forgotten like yesterday’s news. Enough is enough. I wasn’t born with enough middle fingers…
Slipknot, by comparison… Well, there really is no comparison. After an intro tape of the aptly named Be Prepared For Hell, they launch headlong into The Negative One, and eclipse Manson – past and present – in every possible way, simply astonishing from the off. Disasterpiece and Eyeless follow in rapid succession, this breakneck pace being maintained, bear in mind, while frontman Corey Taylor literally has a broken neck. If ever there was an excuse for a poor performance then that’s it, but there is no need. Slipknot have never offered excuses.
Production wise, the band are untouchable. Where Manson once stole bricks from Pink Floyd’s Wall, Slipknot tear that fucker down and build an insane asylum. Many years ago, I did too much acid at Floyd show in London’s docklands, long before it was gentrified, and then had to walk home, first past rows of surly cops, then through bad neighbourhoods, with snarling dogs and cars full of aggressive thugs. Somehow Slipknot manage to conjure that same creeping paranoia of a Pink Floyd show gone horribly wrong. Maggots writhe on the giant projection screen, faces flash past, insects devour each other, armies march, wildfires burn out of control… And this is without drugs!
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about tonight’s set, however, is that Slipknot don’t even touch some of their best work, and are still utterly incredible. There’s no XIX, Sarcastrophe, or Custer, from The Gray Chapter, no Liberate, no People = Shit, and yet there’s such wealth of material that it’s impossible to feel disappointed. It’s also worth noting that much of their best and most diverse work is on the latest album, which in turn was arguably the finest album yet.
But, of course, there are some songs that just can’t be left out, unless you’d like the building burnt down. Slipknot finish their set with (sic), and there’s a brief interlude, the Tiger Lillies song Hell acting as a hilarious filler, and then they’re back with Surfacing, Duality, and the inevitable climax Spit It Out, that “Jump the fuck up” part never getting stale. And that, folks, is how you do magic without anyone seeing the string! Just like that!