Following similar career trajectories since their 90’s inception, the metal heroes of Marilyn Manson and Slipknot have both overcome personal and professional tragedy to recently bounce back with two critically acclaimed and commercially successful LPs, “The Pale Emperor” and “5. The Gray Chapter” respectively. Though both vets of once and future Ozzfests, the similarly minded, vaguely satanic, militantly aggro and fiercely beloved headbanging practitioners had never toured together before. Better now than never though, and with that in mind Reverend Manson and the almighty ‘Knot rolled into Camden last night to a damn near sold out BB&T Pavilion.
Recent reports from the front lines of these shows would suggest the Manson portion of this endeavor to be a complete failure but it wasn’t as bad as all that. Manson’s live performances have always sort of teetered on the brink of disaster and that’s been part of his demented charm, but I’ve definitely seen the All-American Antichrist more coherent than this over the past few years, though he always entertains and last night was no exception.
The “zero fucks given” attitude seemed to trickle down to the setlist which came off as sort-of thrown together, omitting recent banger “Deep Six” and anything off of “Portrait of an American Family”, and I’ll still say Manson’s leaving tons of money on the table by not fully exploiting the 20th anniversary of “Antichrist Superstar”, though that record’s title track (complete with nazi-esque podium and banners), “Angel with the Scabbed Wings” and of course, “The Beautiful People” remain staples and are impossible to argue with as far as indelible arena rock anthems go. It’s always cool to see iconic bassist Twiggy Ramirez do his thing too, in an awesomely ridiculous and ridiculously awesome cloak and mask that looked like what would’ve happened if H.R. Giger designed Kylo Ren.
Manson recently announced a new, upcoming record titled “Say10” (get it?). We caught his headlining gig at the Electric Factory a year or so back, shortly after the release of “The Pale Emperor” and it was completely free of the apparent fatigue and malaise exhibited here. Hopefully the creative process can shore up some of his enthusiasm for performing.
Corey Taylor, on the other hand, might be one of the most enthusiastic people I’ve ever seen in real life. The Slipknot/Stone Sour/Metal-vocalist-jack-of-all-trades has gotten into some hot water himself on this tour, though none of that audience warfare was on display here, with Taylor at the top of his game despite recent, highly publicized health issues. Maybe his stage banter about Philly being a “second home” for the Iowa nine piece was true after all.
The setlist hit all the right marks through the band’s near 20 year history, including personal standouts “Eyeless” and “Disasterpiece”. I’ll admit to being something of a lapsed maggot, but even the newer songs I didn’t know by heart like “The Devil In I” (heartwarmingly dedicated to a 5-year-old cancer patient the band had met earlier in the day) were heavy, catchy, fist pumping, crowd pleasing fun. Sound quality and clarity was some of the best I’ve ever heard in a large, outdoor venue like this as well, and it never stops being amazing that this many dudes onstage together, with so many disparate elements, can sound this tight and well rehearsed.
Which is to say nothing of the visual presentation, a sensory overload to match the band’s audio cacophony, again, sequenced and produced to perfection. Percussionists Shawn “Clown” Crahan and Chris Fehn on hydraulic risers spinning high above the crowd, shifting platforms for DJ Sid Wilson and Sampler Craig Jones scaling the background like a giant, real-life game of Donkey Kong. Flashes of light and disturbing images raced across a full size film screen, along with clips of the band’s history of visual ephemera. The entire stage set up was like an enormous Rube Goldberg mechanism of cool shit to look at, which is of course not to downplay the deft musicianship of the nine masked members themselves, again, bringing their A game to the stage in full head to toe regalia despite the near hundred degree heat. Hats off, boys.
Even with heavy hitters like Guns N Roses and AC/DC back on the road this summer, The Slipknot/Manson team-up might be my underdog favorite for big budget concert spectacle of the year, even with Manson kind of phoning it in. That’s part of the show, after all, enfant terrible Manson being the unpredictable Manson we know and love, for better or worse. And Slipknot’s prowess is as undeniable as ever, definitely a dominant force on record, but one that must be experienced first hand to be truly appreciated.
Photos by Megan Hawkey, Words by Kevin Hawkey