Full credit to Marilyn Manson for not only coming back in 2015 with his best album in a long time, but also for backing it up with a very clear and undeniable return to form as one of our few convincing rock stars.
To be fair, even the sweaty, slurring mess witnessed here six years ago ensured that everyone left the festival talking about him, but from his mischievously bombastic intro and entrance to the relentless bombardment of cast-iron hits, Manson is very much back and up for a scrap. New songs are served up to wild screams; a testament to the quality of The Pale Emperor and to how the lanky sod has rediscovered his malevolent mojo just in time to salvage his reputation. But it’s the classics - a rampaging Disposable Teens, a wickedly snotty Mobscene, a snarling Sweet Dreams - not to mention deep, dark cuts like Angel With The Scabbed Wings, that provide a meaty, mutinous rebuttal to the notion that Manson has lost his edge. In fact, he looks thoroughly engaged and wonderfully imperious as he stalks the stage, that bone dry sense of humour surfacing often and most amusingly during an onstage bro-down with Ice-T (who, according to Mazza, “invented everything”). The Dope Show slams and grinds with a swagger that was entirely absent at Download in 2009, Lunchbox is a defiant punk rock party anthem reborn, and Personal Jesus is pure black-hearted knees-up fodder.
In terms of theatrics, this is by no means the extravagant rock ‘n’ roll mass of old, but the eye-melting lights, dry ice fog and immaculate sound underpin an authentic edge of menace and madness throughout. The Beautiful People erupts like a firework display in Hell and ends in chaos, just as Satan intended. These are catchy songs and Manson is a big star with mainstream reach, of course, but while much of the rock world retreats into cosy cliches and retrogressive mulch, there remains something beautifully subversive about the way his cracked mirror message is disseminated. The difference today is that he seems to want our attention again. Maybe Manson got lazy because we did too? But now he’s back, a little trimmer (but still teetering on the edge of self-destruction) and casually, almost dismissively making the current generation of frontmen look a bit shit. Welcome back, you crazy asshole.