The only Ontario stop of Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie’s Twins of Evil tour was one sibling short, but still a ghoulishly good time.
By the time the sun set over Lake Ontario on July 26th, over 10,000 fans had packed Toronto’s Budweiser Stage to see back-to-back sets by the yin and yang of shock rock.
However, the historic double feature was not meant to be: just before the first headline set was scheduled to start, a grim intercom announcement informed the crowd that, due to an “unforeseen illness,” Marilyn Manson would not be performing.
Thankfully, the night was saved by co-headliner Rob Zombie, who went on-stage earlier than scheduled and played until nearly eleven o’clock. Concealed by a long black curtain, Zombie and crew worked quickly to “recalibrate” the show, adding a seamless extra half-hour to his run-time.
Zombie’s high tech freak show was an elaborate affair, with Nosferatu mic stands, kaleidoscopic horror movie clips, oversized inflatable beach balls, cross-dressing guitarists, and giant dancing monsters on stilts. Wearing a fringed jacket to go with his trademark long hair and unkempt beard, Zombie looked like a seventies rock refugee who moonlights as a woodland serial killer.
The heavy metal Renaissance man was in fine form, bursting onstage with a wild version of Hellbilly Deluxe track “Meet the Creeper,” followed quickly by “Superbeast” and “Scum of the Earth.”
Things took a on a pulp sci-fi tone with “Well, Everybody’s F*cking in a UFO” (featuring an appearance by an alien!), and sleazy cult horror ode “Living Dead Girl.”
With thunderous riffs accentuated by electro accents and creepy sound effects, some of Zombie’s best songs played like dance tracks for movie monsters. With spooky organ hooks, “The Hideous Exhibitions of a Dedicated Gore Wh*re” was a super-catchy ode to girls who love the grotesque. The comparatively poppy Clockwork Orange tribute “(Never Gonna Stop) The Red, Red Kroovy” was vastly improved by the heavy metal edge it took on in a live setting.
White Zombie classic “More Human Than Human” was industrial-strength electronica, and nonsensical road anthem “Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga” (which features, perhaps, Zombie’s grossest chorus) was pure rock-n-roll.
Zombie was a high-energy frontman, headbanging across the stage while belting out his word-salad lyrics in a distinctive growl.
“Are there any Manson fans left, or did they all get a refund?” he snarled, before inviting the crowd to sing along to Marilyn Manson’s signature song, distorted Eurythmics cover “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” It was a pretty cool moment, all things considered – especially when one recalls that several of Zombie’s bandmates are also Manson veterans. “Imagine how good it would have sounded if we’d rehearsed,” Zombie cracked.
He flew solo on “Helter Skelter,” a hard-edged Beatles tune that the Twins of Evil have been performing as a duet. Zombie also paid tribute to shock rock pioneer Alice Cooper with a fun cover of “School’s Out.”
(That wasn’t the only trace of trace of Vincent Furnier DNA running through the show – Zombie’s towering creatures on stilts would have been familiar to anyone who’s attended a Cooper gig in recent years, as was his good-natured but macabre humour).
That’s not to say it was a wholesome show. Zombie’s fittingly creepy performance of “House of 1000 Corpses” was accompanied by video clips of the most sadistic scenes from his 2003 horror film of the same name. Those technicolour torture scenes were almost rivalled by the animated atrocities in the video for the slow-burning “Lords of Salem” (another movie theme).
(There’s always been a symbiotic relationship between Zombie’s music and his films – screenings of 2016 exploitation flick 31 were prefaced by the debut of his music video for “Gore Wh*re.”)
Following the fire-and-brimstone of “Lords of Salem,” the stage cut to black for the teaser trailer for 3 From Hell, Zombie’s highly-anticipated sequel to The Devil’s Reject’s. Billed as the brutal conclusion of “the most violent crime saga in history,” the clip elicited cheers from the crowd.
For the finale, the crew wheeled out a demonic-looking staircase, which Zombie mounted for his biggest hit, badass Munsters in-joke “Dragula.”
The last-minute cancellation of the co-headliner was frustrating for sure, but Rob Zombie proved his professionalism by delivering a killer show, despite the last-minute line-up change.
Cheerfully vulgar, tongue-in-cheek sleazy, and relentlessly rock-n-roll, it was everything fans could want in a Zombie gig. I don’t know how many attendees came solely for Marilyn Manson (eyeballing the crowd, it didn’t look like many people walked out for a refund), but I suspect many left with a new favourite twin.
Opening band Deadly Apples sounded slightly Manson-esque, with industrial guitars, growled vocals, and creepy atmospherics. Although the Montreal metal foursome’s show was fairly minimalist, lead singer (and Montebello Rockfest founder) Alex Martel did deliver some jolts, knocking over equipment and concluding songs by throwing his live mic to the ground.
Glad to hear that Marilyn Manson is feeling better and able to play subsequent shows!
As for us – I guess we’ll always have his studio recordings.