”Welcome to the Bible belt, motherf—rs!”
Or, actually, Giants Stadium in New Jersey — a fairly long way from Oral Roberts country, but Marilyn Manson’s point is made. The bellower of this salutation has a way of turning just about any burg into a seeming religious cloister and any authority figure into an archconservative merely by booking a tour date in town. Today, he and his same-named band are tagging along on the Ozzfest tour, even though the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority tried in vain to cancel the show when it realized exactly which self-proclaimed satanist would be joining reformed bat biter Ozzy Osbourne on the bill. Cooler heads prevailed in the form of a court order, allowing Manson to have his way with 50,000 more young minds this June day.
”They said we weren’t gonna play here!” Manson reminds the crowd in a half snarl that sounds particularly well suited to telling priests that their mothers darn socks in hell. Some of the very authorities who tried to stop the show, he adds, are watching from an overhead box. ”Why not give ‘em a big hello?” The crowd turns around, and a sea of fingers flies in the alleged direction of the would-be censors. Manson can’t resist a coup de grace. ”Who won this time, f—head?”
This inevitable upbraiding accomplished, it’s back to business as usual — which is not nearly as shocking as Jersey officials might’ve feared or the kids might’ve hoped. Manson’s menacingly ambisexual garter getup wouldn’t stun anyone who has paid attention to pop culture since Dr. Frank N. Furter walked the celluloid earth. He preaches a blend of fatalism, antifascism, Christian bashing, and profane self-determinism (think Ayn Rand and Alice Cooper meeting in a Tourette’s syndrome ward).
As the set progresses, Manson produces plenty of indelicate and even alarming invective, directed at both society and self (”Why not kill yourselves? You’re already dead,” he modestly proposes), but doesn’t offer much bite to go with the shock-rock bark. Which is to say, the Jersey crowd is missing out on the bestiality, child molestation, mass rape, and other completely mythical stage rites that some gullible religious and political figures have repeated as fact.
Toward the end, he does work in a showstopper, getting behind a pulpit and donning a red shirt and black jacket for some storm-trooping Mussolini shtick — a la Pink Floyd’s The Wall — whose irony may be lost on the crowd. Here, during the title song of his platinum-selling Antichrist Superstar, he briefly recalls ’80s Christian metal band Stryper as he tosses Bibles out to the crowd… albeit only after ceremonially ripping some pages out. Fortunately for the theatrics, it’s a breezy afternoon, and the desecrated Scriptures flutter peacefully for quite a few sunlit seconds before they disappear into the mosh pit.
Is Marilyn Manson really the devil? Or does he just play one on MTV?
In 1997, while most pop fans appear primed to give in to the light side of the Force — with a top 10 dominated by wholesome acts like Bob Carlisle or cheerfully saucy ones like the Spice Girls — Manson, the anti-Hanson, remains a potent reminder that not everyone making records wants you to have a nice day.