Marilyn Manson

The Last Tour on Earth

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Back when Mechanical Animals entered the charts at number one, it seemed like the world belonged to Marilyn Manson. Not only did he have the most popular album in the country, but he was everywhere -- magazine covers, op-ed pieces, TV shows, gossip columns, award ceremonies, film cameos, even the radio. There was also talk of a feature film, starring none other than himself. All gave the impression that Mechanical Animals was a colossus, which wasn't necessarily accurate. Yes, it was a number one album that went platinum, but after "The Dope Show," it didn't generate any big alt-rock hits, and more importantly, it didn't play all that well with Manson's core audience, who were more interested in goth angst than a glossy glam fantasia. Perhaps Manson would have been able to kick up some support if he didn't court controversy throughout the album's supporting tour. While it earned him endless headlines, particularly when his feud with touring partner Courtney Love went up in smoke, it didn't quite translate into sales. Instead, it resulted in Marilyn fatigue. It didn't matter what Manson did, even if he was (ridiculously) blamed for something as horrific as the April 1999 school massacre at Columbine; people just didn't care anymore -- they were sick of having him to kick around. Perhaps that's why The Last Tour on Earth, the live souvenir from the ill-fated Mechanical Animals, was released to little fanfare in November 1999: Nobody was interested anymore. If The Last Tour on Earth was supposed to recapture their interest, it's hard to see how. Live albums rarely play to a mass audience, and this one appeals to a particularly specialized audience, capturing not only an artist adrift, but also documenting aurally a primarily visual experience. Marilyn Manson's records are usually extremely well-crafted, filled with revealing sonic details, but he disregards his attention for minutiae in concert, choosing to concentrate on spectacle. This means more time spent on dazzling visuals than on new arrangements for the songs, and that's not a bad thing -- Manson is nothing if he isn't an agent provocateur. His shows should be an overwhelming visual experience. There's also really no call for drastically new or reinvented versions of "The Reflecting God," "The Beautiful People," or "Irresponsible Hate Anthem," since they serve as the soundtrack for the sights. That's not to dismiss a very good, tight band, but Marilyn Manson in concert is certainly about the experience, not the music. As such, it's hard to see the purpose of The Last Tour on Earth. There are no discernible differences between the stage and studio versions of these songs, apart from rougher vocals and slightly more immediate sound. Unlike many live albums, there isn't much visceral energy here, possibly because the music had to be fairly regimented to coincide with the visuals. Apart from the crowd noises and Manson's on-stage ramblings, it's hard to tell that this is a live album based on the recordings themselves. Thus, it's not really necessary for anyone but diehards who want every Manson recording, regardless of quality. And given that part of what made Manson's three studio albums interesting were their studio origins, even the diehards might be disappointed. Each record was impeccably crafted, relying as much on studio trickery as songcraft, and that's why they were hits. Stripped of that, the music is less interesting -- it doesn't really collapse without the studio support, but given a choice, it's hard to see why anybody would put on Last Tour. Those who are intrigued with Manson's rambling, of course, might be an exception, considering that there's a certain fascination in hearing him act like a sober Jim Morrison, trying to get his audience to yell "motherf*cker" and winding up with an incoherent "Maoohahfuer," or relating his spellbinding vision of a dream world, where the land is made of drugs, cops give Mr. Manson head, and God is spelled "D-R-U-G-S." It's even funnier when you realize these rants were delivered, by name, to the Midwestern off-markets of Grand Rapids, MI, and Cedar Rapids, IA.

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