Marilyn Manson vs. Smashing Pumpkins: Draw

Moody Theater twofer doesn’t quite double down

“I’m like, legit scared right now,” confessed a nearby crowd member as Marilyn Manson, face-painted and eerie, crept onto the ACL Live stage last night. Brass knuckles mic in hand, the L.A. shock rocker commenced Sunday’s co-headline tour alongside the Smashing Pumpkins with “Deep Six,” from this year’s Pale Emperor.

Marilyn Manson, ACL Live at the Moody Theater, 7.19.15 (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

The front half of the 75-minute set fell flat, the 46-year-old seemingly as apathetic as he appeared lethargic. Intrigue mounted, however, as the theatrics ensued. For his sinister spin on Eurythmics’ classic “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” the Ohio-born Brian Warner towered in 10-foot-tall, crutch-helmed stilts, recalling Alice Cooper’s giant Frankenstein costume but far freakier.

Later, two bikini-clad dancers gyrated against his Cross of Lorraine pulpit during the group’s second cover, Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus.” “Lunchbox” revisited Manson’s 1994 debut, Portrait of an American Family, as the singer burned bibles. 1996’s Antichrist Superstar too was hit via “The Beautiful People,” as was 1998’s Mechanical Animals with closer “Coma White.”

Whereas Manson denounced Jesus whilst literally spitting on fans, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan strode onstage looking pacifistic in comparison. The 48-year-old spiritualist arrived backed by guitarist Jeff Schroeder and this incarnation’s newest addition, shy Brit bassist Jack Bates, son of post-punk royalty Peter Hook (Joy Division, New Order). Missed beyond measure after six years off, original Pumpkins timekeeper Jimmy Chamberlin returned to the drum riser atop distinctive hammering.

Smashing Pumpkins’ Jimmy Chamberlin and Billy Corgan (right) (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Although Corgan’s been publicly hellbent on progress in lieu of Nineties nostalgia, Sunday’s set list was hits doused. Siamese Dream opener “Cherub Rock” commenced crunch-distorted and wistful, trailed by a string of Mellon Collie singles including “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” “Zero,” “1979,” and Chicago ode “Tonight, Tonight.” Cuts from December’s Monuments to an Elegy received far fewer head bops, and 1991’s Gish was blasphemously stiffed.

Against succeeding beauty-rock ballads “Through the Eyes of Ruby” plus “Stand Inside Your Love,” from 2000’s Machina, Monument’s “Run2me” particularly floundered in its plain synth-pop. Corgan spoke sparingly over 90 minutes, but played with pep. Sadly, the bandleader failed to verbally acknowledge Chamberlin’s homecoming, which felt especially warranted after the drummer’s flawless fills on “The Everlasting Gaze” and hard-hitting Siamese closer “Geek U.S.A.”

Instead, the frontman hailed Schroeder, who plays expertly, though proficiency doesn’t necessarily equate to chemistry — of which it appears this incarnation generally lacks. That detached air bred an unconvincing vibe. For lingering diehards, the stiff best-of parade was a likely letdown.

The new generation of Pumpkins fans, though – those who arrived with their crisp, re-branded T-shirts and parents – got to hear songs like “Mayonaise” live for the first time. This alone was an invaluable experience for first-timers. That and a glimpse at a now notorious bandleader, unafraid and as willfully dedicated to his cause now as he was in 1988.

Full photo gallery.

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Marilyn Manson, Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlin, Jeff Schroeder, Jack Bates, Peter Hook, New Order, Joy Division, Eurythmics, Depeche Mode, Alice Cooper

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