Review / photos: Marilyn Manson revisits old shock-rock stomping grounds at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg
The fact that Marilyn Manson is now playing venues like Jannus Live says something about him and something about us.
Most obviously, it says Manson is not the cultural force of nature he was back in 1999, when he could headline Tampa’s Ice Palace and thrice grace Rolling Stone's cover. Darker times call for darker demons, and ours have since diversified: Insane Clown Posse; Tyler, the Creator; Ghost BC; Blood On the Dance Floor — they all owe more than they might admit to the shock-rock that Manson rode to fame back in the ’90s.
But with Kanye West biting Manson-esque samples on Yeezus, maybe the man born Brian Warner is due for a re-appraisal. A nearly sold-out crowd sure thought so, as they welcomed the former Floridian back to Jannus, a venue he last played in 1996. (That was a controversial show — Manson later told Rolling Stone he’d been arrested here on obscenity charges; St. Pete police said it never happened.)
Full disclosure: I can’t call this a full review, as I only made it in for the set’s second half. What I did see, though, I’d describe as a circus of the absurd — literally, on breakthrough hit Sweet Dreams, as Manson toddled around the jam-packed stage on stilts, stomping and clacking his crutches to the beat. He scaled a giant riser for Antichrist Superstar, swinging microphones and doing something — snorting fake coke? eating fake flesh? — in the spotlight. It was hard to tell from the back. But everyone could see the clouds of confetti and smoke that enveloped the courtyard on closer The Beautiful People. Whee!
Manson is 44, yet if you told me he was older, I’d believe it. His calculated theatricality has never been, for lack of a better word, explosive; it’s more slow-burning and creepy, a lot like Manson himself. So while his band sounded tight, there were moments where he seemd a bit lethargic. He attempted to incite a bit of a feud between the balcony-dwellers and the “werewolves” and “zombies” in the pit, but few seemed to bite. Manson may have held a minister’s sway over these fans as teens, but they’re in their 30s now, and they were content to smoke and drink and just have a good time.
It’s safe to say that Manson no longer has shock on his side. We know what we’re getting from him; we also know we can get it in much cheaper, and more potent, forms elsewhere. So perhaps this tour of smaller venues is an ugly necessity. Manson is a surprisingly erudite dude; if he wants to rediscover his creative voice, he probably needs to remind us all how it sounds — moany, groany, nightmarish and, when he gives it his all, still pretty much on point. A tour of smaller venues could be a good first step toward a comeback.
Also, he might want to pick up the phone and call Kanye. There’s a guy who can still get the people riled up. And he’d probably be down to duet.
— Jay Cridlin, tbt*