Last Night: Rob Zombie & Marilyn Manson at Reliant Arena

Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson Reliant Arena October 30, 2012

The men of the "Twins of Evil" tour made two important statements at Reliant Arena Tuesday evening. Marilyn Manson's was that people are zombies. Rob Zombie's was that fire is awesome.

Which one do you think was more fun?

Manson must have been born on the wrong side of the bed, and has been making up for lost time ever since. Tuesday he tried a different accessory on about every song -- a stylish stole, a pope outfit, insecticide sprayer, several different hats, SS-style leather trench, a butcher-knife microphone he used to stab a couple of beer cans -- making a series of Big Statements that rang strangely hollow.

Phrases like "Stink Finger," "Blumpkin" and "Toss My Salad" flashed on LED signs during "mOBSCENE"; after "Rock Is Dead, a clip of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech played before some balloons floated off (the election, maybe?); and for "Antichrist Superstar," he ascended a pulpit in front of a giant Nuremburg rally-style banner, with crooked lightning bolts replacing swastikas. It was all very over-the-top, just not terribly shocking.

Manson's music does have its merits. He's an excellent screamer, and he put that feral howl to good use in a series of marches that made up in throb and grind what they lacked in variety. If you like late-'80s Ministry, you would have loved it.

It was almost too cold and industrial to be erotic, but not always. "Disposable Teens" gave the impression of a morgue being turned into a strip club, and "Slo-Mo-Tion" is about as good as Manson can do at a sexxxy Prince-style love jamm.

He also has superb taste in covers, giving us a thrashy version of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" and turning up the goth to 11 on the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." He dropped two Beatles references into the set, "Revolution" almost immediately and "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" into "The Dope Show."

But something about Manson just radiates contempt for everyone and everything, up to and including the audience and himself. It's just not a very attractive quality. For his Ziggy-Stardust-as-Hitler routine to really work, and make him a true rock demagogue, people should believe he's on their side even a little bit. Tuesday he seemed more like he'd rather piss on the lot of them.

Zombie, on the other hand, approached his set like the B-movie director he is: Aiming for maximum thrills, the more visceral the better. Lots of fire and sex, robots and a cover of Alice Cooper's "School's Out."

Those were the high points, but it was high points from the word go, from opener "Jesus Frankenstein" all the way through "Dragula," which dragged Manson's Nazi podium back out to be mounted by Zombie in a floor-length gold-spangled coat. This was after Zombie left the stage to meet the people during an extended guitar solo, slapping hands all the way to the back of the arena, with a Satan puppet twice as tall as two men lurking behind riffmaster John 5.

Zombie's songs are these hulking superstructures of electronically augmented enormo-rock that often move at a very fast speed; "Superbeast" almost gave me whiplash. They seem to exist to indulge his id as far as it can go, which was pretty far on "Mars Needs Women" and "Pussy Liquor."

His secret weapon is how much groove is bred into his songs, which was not lost on the Terminator robot onstage dancing during "Meet the Creeper." Marilyn Manson covers Depeche Mode and Eurythmics; Zombie prefers KC & the Sunshine Band's "I'm Your Boogieman." Not Tuesday, sadly, but you get the idea. There was plenty of other stuff.

That included animated nudity, clips of The Shining and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, the actual Great Pumpkin (or a guy with a pumpkin on his head anyway), a giant golem doing the robot during "More Human Than Human," Gerald Scarfe-like animation in "Sick Bubblegum," flames licking out from the top of the amps on almost every song, Zombie riding some kind of industrial harvester on "Mars Needs Women," and a trailer for his new movie The Lords of Salem, due Spring 2013.

Zombie also carried on a running dialogue with a fan dressed as Jesus Christ throughout the show. If you don't see the entertainment value of that the night before Halloween (or any night), I'm afraid I just can't help you.

Personal Bias: I like fire. And animated nudity.

The Crowd: Sketchy dudes and the women who love/enable them, many in costume. Scattered disposable teens.

Overheard In the Crowd: "It's $8 if you spill it."

Random Notebook Dump: What the fuck?

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