Hammerstein Ballroom, New York City, NY.
Monday, 11/23/98. --Last night of Part One.

One nice thing to say for seat venues: they're restful. We get into the city in the afternoon and still have time for a leisurely dinner before reporting to our spot in line, where the usual fun ensues.
A TV crew interviews some line members and a t-shirt bootlegger hawks his stuff. We hear an annoying tale from someone: seems KISS are also in town tonight, right down the street in fact, and middle-aged KISS fans passing by en route have not only harassed and taunted the in-line Spooks but - we're told - have even been supported in doing so by the cops. Nice to see such a show of rock'n'roll solidarity...

Ah well. We get in, find our seats in the balcony - nice view - and visit the bar, whose menu nicely includes juices and soda. I'm trying to settle down and relax, but there's something about NYC Manson shows that always puts me on edge. They seem more public somehow, more on-display, with that indefinable outsider thread - music industry people, show-biz people, trendies - running thru the psychic weave like an off-key chord. It's like your parents are there, and it's hard to feel at ease. Our personal security guard, a mid-aged black lady, keeps a watchful eye on the balcony and shoos away anyone who loiters in the aisles or heads for the smaller, more posh balconies flanking the stage.

12 Rounds play and are out of our lives. Funny, I still kind-of like them, but they've become just background noise.

The posh balconies fill up with just the sort of elegant-hip types I expected: guys in tailored black leather jackets, expensive boots and shades; women in long sleek dresses, all chatting and laughing. Manson must be the in-thing this week. What a weird feeling it gives you to think back over the past coupla'years and the dives where we've seen MM play, places where you would never have seen these pretty people.

Darkness. There's the shadow. Everyone's instantly on their feet, and we rush to the balcony rail but are firmly returned to our seats by Madame Guard. S'OK, we can stand here just as well. --Right away there's a frenetic edge to the performance: Manson's pushing as hard as he can, grabbing, demanding. It's that damn NYC vibe that he never has quite gotten over, where you have to give it everything and then some if you're gonna impress the Big City. He hurls himself around the stage, knotting into hyper-dramatic poses. It's SO over-the-top...

and a weird thing happens. I can't tell exactly when or how. I can see the guard standing there stone-faced and the fancy folk in the balcony, smiling easily, and all of a sudden I really DO feel as if my mom is there. As if the crowd is all grown-ups, outsiders, regular people - even though I can see that's not true - and I feel defensive and uncomfortable. I feel as if I somehow have to defend or justify the show to them...

and I realize, for the first time, that I can't. That's the worst part. I can't. The intelligence, the satire, the challenge, the cutting brilliance, of the ACS shows just aren't here anymore. I give in and admit it to myself. All its flash peels away, and it looks as vulgar and strident to me as it probably would to any casual onlooker. He's trying too hard to sell the show, to put it over, and keep up the offense level at the same time. And...well...I can defend the Anti-Flag, the Bible-shredding, the shock symbol, "Rock'n'Roll Nigger" and all the other surviving ACS points to anyone without hesitation, but cripes, the other half of this show is Manson groping himself and humping stage gear and pretending to buttfuck the dancers. I just don't know.

--yeah yeah, OK, he's always been likely to get into his own pants onstage, but it used to have an air of combined sleaze and irony that was underlined by his tangible sense of his own horribleness, and of the manipulability of crowds; if you really wanted to see that, he seemed to be thinking, you were probably even worse than he was. (Remember when he'd shove a Polaroid in there, snap a picture - instant porn! - and toss it to the crowd? Crude maybe, but sly and funny, and he'd smirk at the kids fighting for it as though they'd proven his whole point.) Now it only feels like vacant, high-gloss narcissism, and that's somehow so much worse. And it's not as if I don't appreciate the whole Omega thing about burnt-out stardom, I do, but...oh, I don't know. I just have the same feeling I've had through most of these six shows: this doesn't feel satirical or ironic or even especially intelligent, it feels blank. It's got no content, only face value. And without content to back it up, it is so hard to justify standing through this performance to myself. Even though my mom's not really here at all.
(Cripes, am I glad I'm not down on the barricade tonight. I hate to think what sort of vibe I'd be giving off.)

I do salvage a couple of interesting bits:
--during "Sweet Dreams" a long, black cobweb shadow begins at stage rear and crawls slowly forward, stretching across the whole stage floor; and Manson pulls a couple of old mannerisms out of his bag of tricks, banging his head with the mike and even hooking his fingers into his mouth and pulling it down into an awful grimace with rolled-back eyes, POAAF-style. On sequined Ziggy-Manson this looks more off-kilter and psycho than it ever did on creepy-scarecrow-Manson.
--After "User Friendly", the big sim-sex number, Manson creeps to stage rear and unexpectedly drones, head down and not facing us, "I'm so ashamed." Wha'?...
--Best and probably funniest bit of the whole tour: for "Don't Like The Drugs" the dancers come out dressed in XL white t-shirts printed with MARILYN SAYS DRUGS in huge black letters, directly copped from the FRANKIE SAY RELAX and similar shirts that swept the UK during Frankie Goes To Hollywood's mega chart blitz. Who'd've thought they'd come up with that bit of early-80s trivia?! Whoa! A genuine laugh and do I ever need one.

But by the time it's over I feel so confused and miserable that I'm almost ready to cry, and too drained to cry. I tag downstairs with the rest and Rudy bounces up to me obviously ready to enthuse, but stops dead when he sees my face, and tactfully changes course. (Thanks bro.=) --It develops that the aftershow is being held along the upstairs mezzanine, and it's quite a little circus, with press, local importances and us all milling around. But no Aaron - he's already at the hotel (so I hear on a walkie-talkie) and his brother's standing in for him, unexpectedly enough. [This bit of trivia takes on some possible significance when we later hear of the alleged Spin Magazine unpleasantness.] John5 shows up and plays the crowd gracefully as usual, but nothing else develops, and we finally head outside to find EVB. Who regales us with tales of watching the KISS Army parade by from their show, which had just let out from Madison Square Garden down the street - pudgy, singing, middle-aged guys in full homemade makeup and cardboard armor, looking like rejects from GWAR. Sounds like she had more fun than we did.

So we're out on the sidewalk, breaking up slowly, never happy to part company with the clan.
We scavenge some flyers and stickers that were handed out to the waiting line and left behind. Rudy happily discovers there's still food available at this hour, even if it's only hot peanuts from a street vendor ("I have sustenance!" he cheers). More people take Kristin and Carrie's photo - they're so cute tonight, little faery girls with pink and lavender hair, Carrie in her unicorn dress.
Mes enfants are sometimes the best part of the show.

But it's over and time to go. We reshuffle luggage between cars for the last time and head for the parking garage. Overnight in Philly and then the drive home.

And a good thing too; I really need some sleep...


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