Antics sabotage show; Manson exits abruptly

Copyright 1998 Special to the Chronicle
Marilyn Manson changed outfits three times in an abbreviated concert on Wednesday, Nov. 4.

Marilyn Manson waged a fierce battle Wednesday night at Aerial Theater, but it wasn't against nervous parents dismayed with his shock-rock antics or the religious groups that staged a counter-concert across the street at Jones Plaza.

The now-redheaded rocker's war was with his own fans, whose excited antics sabotaged the set and sound system.

After an hour of sound and light mishaps, the behind-baring star threw down his microphone and stormed off the stage during the opening strains of Sweet Dreams, a song off the 1995 album, Smells Like Children. Band members looked a bit miffed for a few moments, but they made their exits once they realized their sideshow ringleader wasn't returning and left the sold-out crowd noticeably in shock.

"It was legitimate technical problems out of the control of the band, and they were pretty bummed," Manson's manager Tony Ciulla said Thursday from a tour stop in Dallas. "Some fan threw a beer, and it hit the mixing board. It seeps down into the circuits, and that's why (the sound) was cutting out intermittently. We can't do anything about that."

Ciulla said other aspects of the show were affected by fans throwing beer onstage, as well. Silver backdrops came halfway down and were pulled back up during The Dope Show, the first single from Manson's Mechanical Animals; and an enormous sign flashing the word `drugs' in capital letters was half lit during most of I Don't Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me). Two songs, Sweet Dreams and Beautiful People, were left out of the set.

"Manson was upset that he couldn't do those songs," Ciulla said. "He said they knew something was up with the sound. It was probably more disappointing for the band than the fans who thought the show was cut a little short."

The show's early ending angered fans, who chanted "Hell no, we won't go!" and shouted other expletives as they slowly filed out of the theater. The protests continued for a while, but it was clear Manson wasn't returning.

Problems beyond the usual community protests have plagued Manson's 17-city tour throughout its run. A Halloween show in St. Paul, Minn., was cut short when Manson took a fall from the stage before his first encore. Sound problems also caused an abrupt exit in Kansas City, Kan., on Oct. 26.

For the hour or so Manson was in the building, he changed outfits three times, doing his best to create a sort of glam-rock hybrid of Iggy Pop, Prince and an early '90s Madonna. He pranced around like an X-rated court jester in a blue bodysuit accented with sparkly silver patches and Manson's own bare behind; stood ominously upstage in a black trenchcoat and fedora; and shimmied like a Las Vegas showgirl in a glittering red number, complete with feathered sleeves. Scantily clad backup singers echoed the sequins-and-sleaze theme.

Manson's girlfriend, actress Rose McGowan (The Doom Generation, Scream), was in attendance and sat with the sound crew in the middle of the theater during the abbreviated show. She danced languidly along with the music, but seemed a bit dismayed at fans' constant requests for autographs.

Onstage, Manson hiked himself up on a pair of stilts for a dramatic rendition of Mechanical Animals as fans aggressively slammed into each other in large mosh pits on the floor. He charged through the industrial-rock drone of Rock is Dead, The Reflecting God and Cake and Sodomy with equally fierce abandon.

It's hard not to be impressed by Manson's intensity, even as he crowds his show with so many attention-getting antics. Still, spitting water on security guards and tucking a microphone into questionable areas of one's body is more tired than titillating.

Manson's persona as a performer is full of incongruities and contradictions, some disturbing, some nonsensical. His pro-drug stance angers parents and government officials. His adoption of Marilyn Manson as a stage name (Brian Warner is his real name), however, seems based in teen-rebel simplicity. He claims to have combined the names of the most positive (Marilyn Monroe) and negative (Charles Manson) figures in pop culture. Nevermind the fact that Monroe had real problems of her own.

The biggest problem Wednesday night, though, was careless fans. An Aerial Theater spokesperson said the venue is not offering refunds for the abbreviated show. Manson fans will just have to wait for the next round of touring to catch the complete set of freak-show attractions. Maybe then drinks will be held firmly in hand instead of flying up in the air.