“The Antichrist came to Donnington Park and we were all well and truly blessed… or cursed as it may be.”
As the crowds gathered around the Zippo Encore Stage and the last of Black Veil Bride’s pyrotechnics were packed away, it became clear we were all in for something great or something terrible. It was still light and the rain had all but stopped, not exactly the most fitting setting for the self-proclaimed God of Fuck’s return to the UK Festival circuit, and as we waited in the cold rumours were swirling.
“He’s too drunk”, “He’s fucking Twiggy”, “He’s dead.” – I heard all this and more, and the comments weren’t entirely unfounded. Previous to the triumph that was newest album The Pale Emperor Manson reception had been lukewarm at best, another example of a shock-rocker that had lost both his bark and his bite, and had the Kerrang! Award for worst year in rock to prove it.
So when his set ended up leaving Muse’s main stage efforts in the dry ice, it was both a pleasant surprise and a spectacular comeback.
Despite the flashing red lights and stained-glass images of Manson as Christ’s incarnate, the show seemed to trade in the raw spectacle of the early nineties for something a little more mature. Twiggy was still in drag, yes, and burning bibles were hardly in short supply, but this was a streamlined sort of anarchy.
From the first note of Deep Six it was clear that vocally things were back on point – songs ricocheting from crooning to screaming and back again with the kind of ease that can only come from years of practise. The crowd were hungry and at fever pitch before the song had even ended, and from there things only got better. This was a Manson we hadn’t seen in a while, unapologetic, swaggering around with arrogance newly re-affirmed.
Though there were a few hiccups (Ice Tea kept showing up and the microphone decided to break, resulting in the antichrist himself fixing it by throwing it really hard at the floor) it was a quintessential Marilyn Manson set; borderline racist jokes were made, Jesus was condemned, and Twiggy didn’t stop snarling the entire time he was on stage. It was an hour and ten minutes of pure heresy, punctuated by cocaine (fake or otherwise) being scattered across the stage and Manson praying to an effigy of his own image.
As for the set itself, he summed it up by saying “I’ve missed all you guys, so I’m gonna play something from 1996.” It was a perfect mix of old and new, with classics like mOBSCENE and Lunchbox sitting comfortably alongside Cupid Carries A Gun and Mephistopheles Of Los Angeles.
Sweet Dreams had the entire crowd chanting back but the highlight was probably Personal Jesus – which grabbed everyone in a bible-tearing, false-preaching, cross-yourself-and-flip-off-the-audience frenzy and didn’t let go until Manson was on his knees and literally everyone was reaching out to touch faith. When he took to the lectern to preach at the crowd I saw all the hallmarks of a Toronto Blessing-esque religious experience, people were screaming and crying and utterly transfixed.
Though perhaps not as controversial as he was in the immediate Post-Columbine era, or as revolutionary as he was during Holy Wood, the spark that inspires such zealotry and irreverence in his fans is far from dead. His evolution and ascent have not been perfect, stained as they were with school shootings and near death and worst of all The High End Of Low, but such is the life of a rockstar as well as that of a prophet. It’s been a long time in the making but perhaps this is the Manson’s second coming – a new era of an old antichrist.
At any rate, as the lights faded and everyone began to question if trekking to see Muse was really worth it, it was clear this was a gig many would not forget for a long time. God was well and truly dead, and Marilyn Manson was the one with blood on his hands.