Marilyn Manson, Brixton Academy, London

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The Independent Culture

Forget the 1999 Columbine High massacre, when a few disaffected, bullied teens with lousy musical taste and easy access to firearms took out their frustrations in the most violent way on their perceived tormentors.

The real turning-point in the career of Brian Warner, aka Marilyn Manson, heir to the great American tradition of suburban transgressors and cited by the perpetrators as an influence, came in February 2001, when the fabulous satirical online magazine The Onion led with the headline "Marilyn Manson now going door to door trying to shock people". The accompanying story detailed how his "Boo!' tour of wealthy subdivisions was failing to impress the locals. ("I mean, come on. Homoerotic sacrilege went out in the late-Nineties." commented one fictitious resident.)

Their spoof was spot-on. Warner/Manson had become a joke, and despite his undeniable intelligence, easy quotability and canny eye for publicity, he remains more famous for who he is than what he actually does. Currently promoting his sixth album, The Golden Age of Grotesque, the Manson show may no longer be the biggest, craziest thing around, but none the less, there are enough misfits out there eager to see it. Although it's lazy to comment on the appearance of his followers, it's genuinely inconceivable that anyone present could gaze on their fellow punters and still have problems with their own self-image. (Warner calls the event a "Caucasian occasion" at one point, though a "festival of the resistible" would have been equally accurate.)

Unfortunately, without the impressive production values of previous arena displays, the current Marilyn Manson show is overdependent on its musical virtues than before. Kicking off with the self-explanatory "This Is the New Shit", the sound is muddy and unfocused. Better tunes like the rowdy, catchy "mOBSCENE" are hardly recognisable, while old favourites such as "The Beautiful People" and "The Dope Show" just lumber along. Worst of all is the album's title track, a half-hearted nod to Weimar Berlin that's simply Weill.

It's oddly dull to watch, too. Denuded of its witty video, the hit cover of "Tainted Love" is just clumsy, and Warner's once-famed prosthetic arms now appear ridiculous to anyone who's seen Leigh Francis's Ozzy impersonation on Channel 4's ludicrous Bo Selecta!.

It's an eternal problem for all so-called "theatrical" rock shows. Even the humblest West End production can outdo all but the flashiest of gigs when it comes to imaginative staging. Warner might be a cunning fellow, the goth equivalent of Garth Brooks, who became the biggest selling (and blandest) country star ever. By cannily choosing to imitate proven successes, from Alice Cooper to Iggy Pop, Warner has cleaned up financially. But the only true malevolence comes when the livelier songs steal those old Gary Glitter pounding beats. Now that man really is evil...