Bad Adventures chapter eight - Lawrence Joel Memorial Coliseum, Winston-Salem NC, 4/19/97.

Cast of spookykids:
Planetcom, SHARPTOOTH, tumBLEweED, Regina
Other cast: cops, media, Christians, Helmet, Rasputina, and America's Most Wanted =).
Leave Gaithersburg at about 5:30 AM *yawn* and arrive in Winston-Salem by noon. We're early enough that we allow ourselves the luxury of going to our hotel - the lovely Radisson nee Adam's Mark, hereafter dubbed "the Radish"- and dropping off gear (including the hardcopy of the newly revised Manson religious defense flyer, which we have an appointment to hand over for the band's use this evening, plus several gifts for the band). Enjoy the chance to catch our breath, admire the lobby's dreamy Maxfield Parrish-esque murals, etc., before heading for the Coliseum. Once there, yet another unaccustomed luxury - we're allowed to wait inside in the lobby! After many many hours of standing and freezing on sidewalks I call the opportunity to sit, and on a clean floor, quite an improvement. (There are some good things about the rise to arenas.=)

Maybe eight or ten spooks are there ahead of us, some we recognize. There's some chat and selling of stuff. Rasputina does their soundcheck. Chat up a couple of young teen girlkids in astonishingly bright haircolors, Lily and Zia, who seem pleased to meet older fans (later I'm intro'ed to Zia's mom=). Coliseum staff come out to deliver the usual warnings about no spikes, chains, etc. The buzz is that religious protestors are definitely expected, maybe in the hundreds. Got our flyers and we're armed real well...

They show up early, too (standing out like a spotlight in their plain colors, short sleeves and boring haircuts), and with them the news media. Coyote points out that a TV crew is talking to fans outside and Regina and I head out to make sure they get a flyer. A tall dark-haired kid has the mike when we arrive - he's calm and intelligent so we don't interrupt. "Leave us alone" is the overall sentiment of the local spookies. Irrepressible Regina gets their attention soon enough and we not only hand over a flyer but get a good ten or so minutes of camera time.
La Regine reads some of the text and I explain that we don't mind protests and pickets, since both they and we have a right to our opinions, but the shutting down of shows goes over the line. They actually seem to be taking us seriously (go Fox Channel 8!=). We're way psyched as we trot back to the venue, where I begin to acquire the night's collection of Xtian leaflets. SHARPTOOTH spends at least fifteen minutes steadily arguing two of the soulsavers into the ground (they leave looking stunned=) and Bro Chris arrives in full Satanic-clergy regalia to hand out flyers for his newly founded CoS grotto. A regular ecumenical council here this evening.

The line begins to lengthen and we split up to make sure doors on both sides are covered. Man, I can't get over how nice it is to be indoors and seated while waiting on line - downright comfortable. A fellow with a box walks by handing out free Helmet sampler cassettes.
--Coliseum staff chase the pesky Xtians outside and say they can intercept people as they head in, but go no further. Local cops are everywhere and more TV news vans arrive. We sit and enjoy the outdoor show through the big picture windows. What a circus!

Manson's soundcheck begins and goes on and on - I swear it took nearly two hours, unlikely as that sounds. Several run-throughs of "Kinderfeld" (get to hear Manson tweedle on his little flute for the first time)
and "Apple of Sodom". Such a kick to hear these new ones.

Door was supposed to be 6 PM but it's almost 6:30 by the time Helmet finishes their check and we're let in. Our divide-and-conquer strategy works as we dash in from both sides - by 6:35 all six of us have barricade spots. Yea us! Our old fave, the "Action Bible Songs" tape, comes over the speakers - doubtless because of the evening's uninvited guests- and it's singalong time.

Zepp drops by to say hi. We bubble happily about our presents for MM but our hopes are soon dashed as Zepp says the band's plans have changed, and they're leaving town right after the show. Damn. We momentarily deflate. Damian's waycool new flyer design will have to wait a little longer for fame.

Ah, well. The place is too hyped up to stay blue in. Arena fills slowly and the kids are wired to the max. Our little in-line pal Lily ends up standing right behind us - Zepp materializes outa nowhere and hands her an aftershow pass! "It is your birthday, right?" sez he and she nods wide-eyed. You should've seen her face, kids.. =)

Lights out, off we go. Helmet play. They're a nice surprise - heavy but not trudging or dull (as were Clutch), and they seem to be having a great time, shooting each other huge grins as they stalk and bounce. "Thanks for coming early to see us, we really appreciate it," sez singer Page. Got to love such humility, eh? Their set's well received (and their fans surprisingly low-key - I think there were all of two surfers).
I think we'll be on good terms with these guys.

Then Rasputina. I don't think any description can prepare you for this, but try "Kate Bush goes classical-Gothic, then turns left." They sweep out in corsets and Victorian gowns, settle in their patchbare little velvet chairs, the singer asks "Say, didn't I see you guys waiting in line at Auschwitz in 1945?" and off they sail. A disciplined but dizzyingly eccentric cello trio with a deadpan sense of humor - you just don't know how to react when one thoughtfully comments "There was a time in history when feces really meant something" - they're so unique that they catch everyone off guard, and get a lot of baffled but polite applause. Coyote later remarks that by exact LaVey definition they're more Satanic than MM will ever be, since MM are at least a definable rock band, but these three are pure freaks who fit in no possible category. Tattooed women with silver eyelashes wearing formal dress and playing classical instruments while singing about vampires and Howard Hughes. No wonder Manson likes them. They seem on good terms with their hosts, too - "If you came here expecting some sort of unholy medical-Satanic crossbreed, then you will definitely not be disappointed," the singer breathlessly declares, sounding like a daffy maiden aunt at a fetish party. --Very good, very funny, and totally beyond your experience. "Prepare your hair shirts," is their parting shot as they swoosh offstage and the lights come up again.

Bowie's "Diamond Dogs" LP is still the pre-set music and we watch and wonder as the roadies transform the space. Manson's familiar cube perch has had a total makeover and is now a post-industrial block painted steel grey with sections of (looks like air-conditioning or electrical duct) mounted around its surface. The set is HUGE, draped floor to ceiling in black curtains, the lighting rig looks like something inherited from Kiss. What-all is back there?! We know what we've heard about and can't wait to see it. The suspense is terrible (I hope it lasts)...

Bowie finishes. Darkness falls. Curtains draw aside and every jaw in the place drops.

We're looking at a full-color stained-glass window of Jesus on his throne, fifteen feet high,flanked by cathedral-wall wings with green light pouring through rose windows. There's Pogo's pipe organ on the right and on the left is a drum riser that actually gets Ginger above the direct line of fire (sensible planning, that). And beneath the window is a wide, graceful staircase, coming down from the right and turning toward us at the landing, and on the landing stands a tall figure with arms outstretched--
--the spotlight hits him and the place goes mad.
(----oh, like I have to tell you who it is.=)

Holding the same pose he comes slowly down the stairs, in pace with the huge bass pulse of "Angel w/t Scabbed Wings," and you can tell he's savoring the pit's stunned awe. I mean, what a sight! Probably the most beautiful piece of rock and roll staging I have ever laid eyes on, topped by this stately entrance. Wow.
The moment Manson arrives he's completely in his element, the center of controversy, almost visibly crackling with the electricity of the conflicting emotions whipping around him. "Fueled by filth and fury" - damn straight. You can almost feel him drinking it all down, the phalanxes of cops, the jittery security, the TV news crews, the Christians with their signs and flyers, the howling, whipped-up kids - pulling it into himself and thinking
here was I born to be. Just as "Marilyn" is as important as "Manson" in this equation, "Superstar" is as important as "Antichrist," and gloria-in-excelsis (g-l-o-r-i-a!), the man's at his zenith. A sight to behold.

A few quick impressions:
---The new set is TREMENDOUS. The older material ("Get Your Gunn,""Cake and Sodomy") has been moved to the early part of the evening, so there's a much more natural feeling of progression, IMHO. Also, instead of there being just one big piece of stage business (the snow-uniforms-podium sequence from "Cryptorchid" into "ACS") there are now several, so the show doesn't seem (as it did to me) to suddenly change gears with a jolt and then shift back again. And the whole thing is just so goddamned cohesive and powerful!
A LOT of re-thought and re-design has gone into this.
---The Return of Twiggy! The bouncy Twig we know and love was back for the first time in way too long.
The vibe of the night was just infectious I guess. What a pleasure it was to see him back in character.
---My overwhelming feeling this night is that the whole show - tho it might have been just me - has been subtly retooled to nail home the point that There Is No God. Lines that never before seemed to mean that exactly, like "there's no one here to save ourself" in "Kinderfeld," tonight seemed loaded with a sense of desperate-measures, back-to-the-wall self-reliance. "This is what you should fear/ YOU are what you should fear" is crushing in its enormous responsibility. "Man That You Fear" with its Easter lilies and bleeding Manson seems a parable of the anti-resurrection, a Jesus who never rose, "no one left for you." You MUST rely on yourself because You Are All There Is. --I (almost) have a whole new theory of ACS in fact, thx to this. [I eventually DID have a whole new theory.]

Let me try to cover the best parts, since as usual I can't remember the whole set...
---A scorchingly intense "1996." Manson steps to the front of the stage and does not sing but declaims the verses unaccompanied, nailing each syllable with all the power and emphasis he can summon --the band playing only on the choruses, which are louder than the fkn' crack of doom. Swear, he hits "anti-Satan" so hard I think the mike will burn out. If he had put up a neon sign it couldn't be any clearer: "just in case any of you protestors decided to actually see this show you were so determined to hate, this is what I mean." --Whew, MAN. (--and that line in the chorus is finally clear: "Now it's your turn to see what I hate about me."
No "misanthropy" about it.)
--"Tourniquet"- a remix of sorts in which the heartrending
"you never ever believed in me, you never ever believed..." becomes a raving "she'll never ever believe in me." Still sad and moving but a lot angrier....

....I'm trying not to lapse into complete fangirl awe here, but the plain fact of the night is that Manson had the place - the whole situation - in the palm of his hand and knew it. Complete command, confidence and such pride; spitting electrical anger, but anger with power and direction and awesome control. He didn't so much as turn his head the whole night without looking like the king of the whole damn jungle, and everything he did came out of that balance, everything was delivered with a supercharged conviction that was like nothing I've ever seen from him before. It was spellbinding. If I shortchange the others (and I know I am) it's not that they didn't play the hell out of the set, it's that I could not look anywhere else.

---"Kinderfeld" - Manson striking a bizarre, insectlike figure as he creeps across the stage on his stilts and canes, a mike headset built into his favorite WWI aviator helmet, looking like some towering posthuman creature from the far future. The loss of the studio version's claustrophobic compression and multiple personalities is more than made up for by watching Manson's ferocious performance come out of this apparition, especially when it produces this pink plastic flute (not a panpipe as was reported) and begins tootling away. I'm damned if I have any idea what this creature signifies, but it's fascinating to watch.(A transitional form between worm and angel? Or maybe just "stilts are fun"? =)

---"Apple of Sodom" - wow! Manson steps out splattered in blood, announces "A long time ago there was a person who was as misunderstood as we are...and they nailed him to a fuckin' cross" --and goes into the song as snow starts to fall. And falls and falls in huge flakes. Light streams through the windows. Manson shows off some of his *ahem* new belly-dancing moves *ahem**koff* and Rasputina materialize on the staircase from nowhere, silhouetted against the stained glass like brides of Dracula, to chime in the ghostly "ooooh"s.
All of this together is an image too surreal to convey, it looks like a sequence from Santa Sangre.. (I miss "Cryptorchid," which is gone from the set, but "AoS" makes an equally neat transition into"ACS.")

---"Hate Anthem" for the first encore - Manson appears on the staircase wrapped in Old Glory, saluting the crowd, with the Anti-Flag for a backdrop. What a shot. =) --The little "they think you should be in church" rap is gone, but Manson says "here's a special song you can sing to those people as you leave here tonight....
shoot, shoot, shoot motherfucker...."
---"Man That You Fear" is still the closer, as should be, only now is done in full light the whole time, snow falling on the bloodied Rev and the lilies and us. It loses nothing in transition.
What more can I say? Revenge and transmutation and transcendence. Brilliance squared.
It fuckin' rocked. =)
(Fashion wrap-up: I could not see Zim at all. Pogo now decidedly has hair, reddish, on the curly/wavy side, cut into a very dramatic widow's peak, and no goatee! It's gone! --Twig is still trapped in that beige corduroy dress...gotta get this boy back into pink and green...and Manson, evidently determined to not give the Legion of Decency even an inch, was wearing what looked like skintight black bike shorts under his surgical-wear and exposed neither butt nor naughtybits the whole evening..)

..to main gig review page.
..to the next show.