Slipknot, Marilyn Manson
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
August 26, 2016
Friday’s night show featuring Of Mice & Men, Marilyn Manson and Skipknot at the Woodlands Pavilion was certainly interesting. Between the typical lengthy lines to enter the venue, the downpour of rain that settled over the amphitheater for the entire evening, and the odd antics onstage (both good and bad), at least no one can say that the experience wasn’t entertaining.
Until the construction on I-45 ends or people stop scheduling concerts around rush hour, the trek to The Woodlands will always be a near-impossible journey and openers will continue to be missed. Like myself, many people didn’t get the opportunity to see Of Mice and Men after clearing the traffic jam just to stand in line at the gate in the soaking rain — sadly, the Pavilion doesn’t allow umbrellas inside, nor do they provide covering at the gate — making the arrival less than pleasurable.
By the time Marilyn Manson took the stage and most people had finally taken their seats, more than two-thirds of the Pavilion looked full. In an explosion of light and props from previous tours, the band took the stage to an anxious roar from an expectant (if already wet and tired) audience. At which point the show took a bewildering turn.
Displaying visible hairplugs, a bloated paunch and silver-capped grill, onstage Manson became the aging rock-star stereotype: a burned-out exoskeleton mired in a subpar performance. Appearing either half-asleep, inebriated or past the point of giving zero shits, Manson put on the worst show I have literally ever witnessed. Not to sound dramatically extreme, but Manson was so doggedly awful and depressing to watch, none worse immediately sprang to mind.
And, I’m a honest-to-god fan of the man.
Manson's entire set left me bewildered and confused. Oddly, while he seemed a puppet of his former self, his band appeared clear-headed and, to the delight of his fans, played an impeccable set. Yet Manson, while stumbling around onstage and muttering indecipherably into the microphone (at one point, even singing the lyrics “Blah, blah, blah”), left the audience in the kind of uncomfortable awe that one would find at a public flogging, criminal act or train wreck.
Utter confusion took over from applause after several songs where Manson barely sang the lyrics, his voice dropped out, and overall gave a lethargic performance. I couldn’t help recall his last summer’s performance at NRG Arena with Smashing Pumpkins, where Manson's set was so superlative and engaging that when Billy Corgan and crew came on afterward, many audience members left after a few songs because Manson was so much more theatrical and compelling than the nominal headliners.
That was not the case Friday evening.
More cringing came when Manson stepped into the pit with fans and could barely make his way back out. After trying to crawl out unsuccessfully — he was having trouble hoisting himself up — he laid down the microphone, revealing not only a vocal backing track, but that this man was barely in control of his own faculties.
And not only did it seem like Manson has not only given up on caring about his performance while taking fame for granted, but he has it out for photographers, too. At one point he hit one photographer in the pit with a bag of what looked like blue chalk dust, and then had all of them excused from the area for reasons unknown. Manson continued the confusing behavior, occasionally slurring to the audience, “Hey, Houston.”
It was hard to tell whether Manson was tired from the long tour (Houston had to be rescheduled from June due to Skipknot front man Corey Taylor’s spinal surgery), or was just posturing. Or, he could have just been a man in need of help. Either way, what greatness his band members offered in terms of a rock and roll show was not reciprocated by their front man, who has very obviously lost his way onstage.
Soon, what felt like a would-be episode of Behind the Music With Marilyn Manson: The Downward Spiral gave way to his encore, “The Beautiful People,” whose lyrics took on a new irony sung by man clearly unraveling before the world. Fearing I was the only one who felt this way, my doubts about the performance were confirmed by nearby audience members overheard discussing, “What the fuck was that?”
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In the most polarized show imaginable, Slipknot took the stage with a clear and focused aggression that not only made up for the hot mess Manson left behind but rallied the audience to a new level of appreciation. A Slipknot show is unlike other metal shows in that the members understand that a good rock show is theatrical as well as musical.
In their signature horror masks and elevated hydraulic stages with multiple drummers, Slipknot took the audience from a muted and murky confusion to an assault overwhelming the senses. There have not been many times where the audience roar was so loud I've struggled to hear my own voice, but this was one of them, and it occurred multiple times throughout the set. Slipknot played with all the accuracy, care and professionalism of a top-tier metal act that, sadly, Manson did not.
Taylor continually engaged the audience, eye to eye, scream to scream, letting it be known that not only did he love Texas, but he loves Houston even more. At one point he even told the audience, who were already on their feet, “This has been the best show we’ve ever done here.” At his command to “Jump,” the aisles of the Pavilion began to move in a way I’ve never witnessed at the Pavilion.
In a showing of opposites, Slipknot gave their best performance in Houston to date while Manson gave his worst. Fans can only hope that either he takes his performance as serious as the headliners or takes a break. No one likes to see their heroes fail and while some may find Manson’s performance as the humorous antics of a rock star out of control, there’s nothing funny about someone who obviously needs help.