Context, of course, is everything. A recent USA Today /CNN /Gallup poll revealed that 88 per cent of the American population believe that God had at least some hand in the creation of life on Earth. And so, when Marilyn Manson ascends a lectern for a mock-Nazi rally during "Antichrist Superstar" and sets fire to a copy of the Bible, one has to remember where he comes from.
If Manson's shock tactics appear a little blunt to us urbane Europeans, one has to remember that this the land of the religious right, the Intelligent Designers and the pro-lifers is the battleground where he fights.
He may never be recognised as such, but Manson is a cultural hero, turning critiques of neocon thinking into little anthems for the kids, and also an aesthete, a civilised Renaissance man who can paint, write (his autobiography The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell) and make films (his Lewis Carroll fantasy-biopic Phantasmagoria). As such, he is the nearest thing the Nineties/Noughties have had to a Bowie figure, and to a Rotten an achievement which, amid a barren field, to use a Mansonesque metaphor, is admittedly like shooting babies in a barrel.
With his top hat, Day-Glo eye stripe and wielding a microphone in the shape of a Psycho dagger, Manson is rock's greatest showman, the ringmaster choreographing his own Grand Guignol circus of horror. The theatricality has been scaled back, but there's still a rising hydraulic platform upon which he is silhouetted in a red circle like a bloodied Bond babe. Best of all is the woman who slowly wheels a table onstage bearing a wine bottle and a telephone and, just when you're wondering what the point is, Manson tears off her mannequin head, then her arm, as she continues to walk about.
Much of the set list is drawn from the pained, somewhat dirge-heavy Eat Me, Drink Me, the break-up album whose title was inspired equally by Lewis Carroll, the Holy Eucharist, and the tale of Armin Meiwes, the German consensual cannibal who ate a volunteer's penis before killing and cooking him.
Even on a simple sonic level, Manson never fails to thrill. His band makes a hard-hitting industrial metal and cyber-glam racket which is incredibly visceral.
Manson's most powerful song of all, "mOBSCENE", is "dedicated 15,000 per ecnt to London" and, he says, was inspired by "a very depraved motherfucker named Oscar Wilde". I like to believe that, were Wilde still around, the respect might be mutual.