Over the past 20 years, Marilyn Manson has mesmerized audiences with his audacity and villainous charm. In honor of the release of his ninth studio album, The Pale Emperor, which came out last month, the 46-year-old Brian Warner has embarked on a world-wide headlining tour appropriately titled "Hell Not Hallelujah" (taken from "Cupid Carries A Gun," a track on the new LP) which is scheduled to run through June.
Despite the arctic temperatures on January 29, an unorganized mob of anxiously waiting fans spanned down West 56th street doing their best to stay warm while security slowly shuffled them into Manhattan's Terminal 5. One couple claimed to have been on line since 8:30 that morning, weathering the cold for almost a full 12 hours to successfully secure a front row spot. Although the concert was initially set to take place earlier in the week, the blizzard-like conditions that had swept the Northeast forced its cancellation.
While people continued to be ushered inside, the city's own Unlocking The Truth kicked off the night. The trio, made up by three young teens who got their start busking in and around Times Square, possess a musical ability that could put artists three times their age to shame. Their set was memorable though relatively short, and the band maintained an aura of poise and seasoned professionalism far beyond their years even when their sound was cut off for going over their designated time.
When the lights dim and Manson and his ensemble take the stage (while, fittingly enough, the Beatles' "Helter Skelter" plays overhead) is it evident that he has not lost the untouchable aura that surrounds him or his ability to command a crowd. Although opening with "Deep Six," the first official single off the new record, the band finds a satisfying balance between both recent and classic material, playing favorites like "Disposable Teens" and "No Reflection" before turning the focus back to Emperor with "Killing Strangers." Later on, when introducing his cover of Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," he dedicates the song to longtime friend and notorious '90s club kid Michael Alig who was present, referencing the period Alig had spent in jail for the murder of his drug dealer, which the 2003 film Party Monster was based upon.
"New York City,” he says to the crowd and receives ear shattering shrieks and screams in response, "We are friends, and you protect your friends."
Manson is definitely not as offensive or grotesque as he once was—and maybe that is because he has done all in his power to scare, shock, and surprise his audience. Gone are the days of elaborate props, dismantled Bibles, and intricate costumes (besides the third eye he sports on his forehead). He seems comfortably aware that his persona, though still larger-than-life, may not be as venomous as it once was.
Yet his performance is still blissfully strange. Throughout the night, he addresses the packed venue in a regal, gentlemanly Southern drawl, and stops at one point to ask a startled security guard to tie his shoe. Fans begin to get a glimpse of a different kind of Marilyn Manson: a playful, teasingly childish one. Putting the final touch on a fantastic show by closing the evening out with a haunting rendition of "Coma White," the performer demonstrates how he has carved out a niche in pop culture and why he has managed to stay relevant over two decades after beginning his career—and rightfully so.