Marilyn Manson : Roseland Ballroom, NYC, Thurs November 18

Marilyn Manson : Roseland Ballroom, NYC, Thurs November 18

The fitting soundtrack for four years of Bush-assured destruction…

According to an overwhelming majority of Marilyn Manson fans we poll tonight, newly re-elected United States President George W Bush definitely gets better cocaine than the Antichrist Superstar. But that’s about all the President’s got on Manson, whose fans are even more devoted to the shock-rocker than the Christian Right is to Bush.

Manson’s first post-election New York City gig, held at the 2,500-capacity Roseland Ballroom, has the full assortment of freaks in attendance: people decked out in everything from gigantic black platform creepers and blood-stained corsets to vampire cop outfits. It’s like one giant audition for Beetlejuice or The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the message is made clear: Manson fans are here to worship, not to be hip. And worship they do, in the giant mock cathedral that serves as the first stage set and comes complete with a back-lit stained-glass window and spires pointing up to a giant night-sky-like light board.

Tonight is like a grotesque gothic circus with Manson as ringleader. Even during the two power cuts that interrupt the show, you can feel his presence looking over us, reminding us what it’s like to see a rock star actually fucking perform for his fans. Countless bands these days are deemed to be ‘great live’ on the strength of a wonky haircut and a hipster guestlist, but few summon up the devotion in the air, the spectacle onstage, and the true abandon of the crowd in the same way Manson can.

Along with the cathedral, we’re treated to an American flag backdrop and red streamer confetti, plus a Nazi-esque podium and banner set similar to the one Eminem used here at his Shady Convention a few weeks earlier. We also get a blitz of costume changes that would make Madonna gasp for air: from the feminine (man-panties and knee-high boots) to the cabaret-like (stilts and a top hat), to the downright bizarre (Capri palazzo pants and a corset). Meanwhile, bassist Tim Skold plays a giant black and white acoustic bass, and Madonna Wayne Gacy’s keys are suspended on a swing.

Oh, and the music doesn’t suck either. In the wake of the recent release of ‘Lest We Forget’, a collection of the greatest hits from his decade-long career, Manson sounds like a true cultural icon, thriving bloodsucker-like on the adoration of his fans. The songs he plays tonight, from newer tracks like ‘Mobscene’, oldies like ‘The Fight Song’ and consummate hits like ‘The Beautiful People’, are enough to ensure Natural Born Killers-style mosh-pit action down the front. But it’s his three throbbing new-wave covers – Depeche Mode’s ‘Personal Jesus’, Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Love’ and the Eurythmics ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ – that showcase the singer’s ability to borrow from convention, reveal its dark side, and rally his vast army of fans in the process. Mid-set, Manson declares: “New York City, I already know that you’re the best fucking crowd, but I want to be reminded.” The devotees can only oblige.

Elizabeth Goodman