It indeed feels like the end of the world as the most unassuming pair of co-headliners Marilyn Manson and the Smashing Pumpkins kick off their End Times U.S. tour this week. Last night they took Orange County, Calif., by the horns at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine. Though the unlikely pairing has had their fair share of public disputes over the years, they pulled it together to entertain the masses and prove the dream of the ’90s is indeed alive and well.
Marilyn Manson blazes through a myriad of hits and amps up the crowd simply by being in the building and playing what the people want to hear. In all his antichrist glory, Manson emerges like an extra from the “Thriller” video who had not washed his face since filming day and has lived in a dumpster for the past 22 years. Think goth-zombie chic. He also spares no theatrics enlisting the likes of confetti cannons blasting metallic red cross-shaped pieces over the audience, smoke billowing across the stage, a large pseudo alter dead center, a fire-spitting Bible as well as several costume changes.
The smoke and mirror method helpfully distracts from Manson’s initial lackluster demeanor. However, moving into some of his greatest cover hits helps bring him to life. The audience welcomes “Sweet Dreams” with open arms. He shines as he dry humps his faux alter during “Personal Jesus.” When he says, “I think that California is the best place to get drugs,” the crowd loses control in anticipation of a roaring rendition of “The Dope Show.” By the end of his set, Manson’s alter rises into a podium-like structure which he aggressively mounts like a dictator addressing his subjects. He livens up and rouses the crowd one last time before exiting at the end of “The Beautiful People.”
The mood takes a turn in the opposite direction come time for Smashing Pumpkins to take the stage. No need for the wide array of disturbing antics. The group stays tried and true to the music, which is mostly what is left of their namesake. They have fondly been referred to as “The Smashing Corgans” due to their numerous lineup changes which maintained Billy Corgan as the group’s frontman regardless. All changes aside, they prove they still have it. Opening with “Cherub Rock,” “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and “Tonight, Tonight” sets the bar high for the rest of the set. Corgan delivers each song flawlessly with little to no effort or enthusiasm. It truly becomes all about the music.
He performs melodic acoustic renditions of “Disarm” and the fan favorite “Landslide,” putting a solid cap on the night that leaves people feeling satisfied they are getting what they came to hear. Unfortunately, the excitement stales when they play “Run2Me” – a new wave poppy sounding track off their latest album Monuments to an Elegy that unapologetically misses the glorious alternative mark previous Smashing Pumpkins albums have placed. Throngs of underwhelmed audience members start the long trek back up the hill to try to beat the rest of the impending exodus from the venue at the looming end of the show. Those who choose to stay until the bitter end are thanked with a stellar pick-me-up encore of “Geek U.S.A.”
Though Marilyn Manson and the Smashing Pumpkins took blatantly different approaches to making their music in the ’90s, their music still carries nostalgia and relevance as it even plays on mainstream radio to this day. It is a delight to see they are able to put the past transgressions behind them and move forward into this epic co-headlining tour. The true tale of the time is the eclectic audience they summon – characters of every shape, size and genre imaginable – and how this music makes sense for all of them.
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
The Beautiful People
Bullet with the Butterfly Wings
Drum + Fife
One and All (We Are)
The Everlasting Gaze
The Crying Tree of Mercury
Landslide (acoustic) – Fleetwood Mac cover
Thru the Eyes of Ruby
Stand Inside Your Love
Photos for mxdwn by Rachel Zimmerman