Live Music Review: The Smashing Pumpkins & Marilyn Manson
Last week I went to three concerts. On Monday, I saw The Appleseed Cast at The Constellation Room. On Thursday I attended the End Times Tour featuring Marilyn Manson and The Smashing Pumpkins. These two concerts could not be more different. Whereas the Constellation Room is a small venue within another venue, the Verizon Amphitheater in Irvine provides a huge, stadium-style concert experience. I had been there once before to see Soundgarden and NIN, and I learned from my last visit to park near the exit or else getting out of the parking lot can take hours.
This time, I wasn’t alone. My friend Chris (whom I also work with) went with me. I found lawn tickets online for $10 each, so it was a no-brainer to get a pair. I’m not really a fan of Marilyn Manson, but I had heard he puts on a good show with lots of cool visuals. I AM a fan of The Smashing Pumpkins, however, and relished the opportunity to see them perform. True, it’s not the original lineup, but Billy Corgan is still the frontman and he has been the driving force behind the project since the beginning. The original drummer, Jimmy Chamberlin, is back for this tour. (Whether he stays on board remains to be seen.)
Due to the lineup, there was a strange mix of fans at the show. The “Manson-only” fans stood out; they were dressed in goth attire and makeup. We saw one guy who looked like a Scottish goth mailman. The age range was very diverse; we saw kids and 50 year olds as well as everyone who falls somewhere between.
As mentioned, our seats were on the lawn, which is at the very top of the amphitheater. There are no chairs, but everyone stood anyway. On the way up to the top, we could hear a rapper performing some terrible nu-metal sounding music. His delivery reminded me of Fred Durst, whom I cannot stand. Thankfully, he was done just as we found two spots on the grass where we could lean against a railing. Prime real estate!
We quickly met two new friends, a younger couple in their twenties. She was there for Manson, he was there for Pumpkins. They were none too happy to find out we had paid $10 per ticket as she had paid $80 apiece. We should’ve kept our mouths shut.
When Marilyn Manson came on, it was still daylight. He came out wearing a trenchcoat and makeup that made him look like the clown from Spawn. He greeted the crowd with, “Welcome to the end times, motherfuckers,” which of course received a wild applause. He started with a song off of his new record, which Chris told me is actually very good. I knew a couple of songs that he played, including his excellent cover of The Eurythmics Sweet Dreams and his decent cover of Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus.
Since I didn’t really know the music, I focused more on the visuals, and he has some interesting ones. For starters, he had several costume changes, including one song performed completely on stilts and another while wearing his well-known “evil pope” costume (which he delivered from a ludicrously tall pulpit). He had a couple different microphones as well; one was attached to brass knuckles, another had a knife jutting out from the base.
In addition to the pulpit, other stage visuals including two giant stained glass windows featuring Manson’s face, smoke pillars, and a laser light show. The largest piece was a neon double dagger/double cross symbol that could be lit with either crossbar lit (or both). I think it’s safe to say that Marilyn Manson has a pretty negative view of organized religion, based on the visuals alone. (I can relate.)
Overall, I enjoyed Manson’s set. I knew a couple of songs, but was mostly spellbound by the theatricality. He’s not the first (or only) artist to incorporate performance art into his live set, but he does it quite well. I think I would have enjoyed the concert more if I was a fan of his music, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
Setlist: Requiem (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart cover) | Deep Six | Disposable Teens | mOBSCENE | No Reflection | Third Day of a Seven Day Binge | Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (Eurythmics cover) | Angel With the Scabbed Wings | Personal Jesus (Depeche Mode cover) | Rock Is Dead | The Dope Show | Lunchbox | Antichrist Superstar | The Beautiful People
Sound: ★★★ out of 5
Energy: ★★★ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★★★ out of 5
Overall: ★★★½ out of 5
The Smashing Pumpkins
The Smashing Pumpkins played for a solid ninety minutes, and it was phenomenal. The setlist was largely fan service, which was not “pandering” but very welcome. I had read that on previous tours, Corgan was reluctant to play the old hits, instead opting for the stuff he’s written since the reunion. He even went on record to say that the band was going to break up after this year due to fans being “fixated on the past.” While I enjoy many of the new songs, it wouldn’t have been the same without hearing tracks from the glory days. After the first couple of (hit) songs, we could hear the audience chanting “Greatest hits!” to which Corgan replied that he intended on keeping chat to a minimum to make room for more songs. It paid off.
Due to the inclusion of original drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, most of the songs in the setlist were taken from the records on which he played: Siamese Dream, Machina/The Machines of God, and of course the flawless Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Whereas Manson relied more heavily on visuals, the Pumpkins stage was very minimal. The only set dressing was a tangle of white strips hanging from the ceiling which were lit with different colors throughout the show. Instead, the Pumpkins relied on the strength of the music and the musicianship. This was a wise choice as both were top notch. The only song I was eager to hear but didn’t get to was Today.
There were many standout moments of the set, but my favorite song of the night was the closer United States, taken from Corgan’s newer material. If you’ve never heard it, I’ve embedded it below. It’s long, so get comfortable. It is a punishing assault of speed and heaviness, and was the perfect closer.
For an encore, Corgan thanked everyone who stayed past 1979 and called the fans who left “typical 3rd quarter Laker fans.” (This included our new friends who left early due to a lover’s quarrel.) They played Geek U.S.A. and then took their time leaving the stage. Corgan and company soaked up all the applause that was rightfully given.
Setlist: Cherub Rock | Bullet With Butterfly Wings | Tonight, Tonight | Ava Adore | Drum + Fife | One and All (We Are) | The Everlasting Gaze | Zero | The Crying Tree of Mercury | Mayonaise | Disarm (acoustic) | Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover) | 1979 | Run2Me | Thru the Eyes of Ruby | Stand Inside Your Love | Drum Solo | United States
Encore: Geek U.S.A.
Setlist: ★★★★½ out of 5
Sound: ★★★ out of 5
Energy: ★★★★ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★★★ out of 5
Overall: ★★★★ out of 5
Overall, Thursday was a very enjoyable night. (There are many worse ways to spend $10.) Manson was good, the Pumpkins were great. I’m very happy I got to see The Smashing Pumpkins live before the end, if the rumors are indeed true.
Click here for a better review of the concert, with more pictures.
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