Marilyn Manson, Coal Chamber, Wednesday 13, Motionless in White @ Enmore, Sydney (29/2/2012)

Putting on a live performance is not easy. Putting on live performances on consecutive nights after a festival like Soundwave is even less easy. So when February the 29th rolled around and the Enmore Theatre played venue to a Soundwave sideshow featuring Motionless in White, Wednesday 13, Coal Chamber and Marilyn Manson, the crowd were fairly understanding and forgiving – definitely a good thing because as last year’s Soundwave proved, when Slayer cancelled their Sydney show, a group of angry metalheads can get pretty damn rowdy.

With heavy rain and muggy humidity, the black clad fans were already less enthusiastic than they might have been. Groups of men and women of all ages came dressed in all manner of costumes, from the casual jeans and black t-shirt to fishnet tops, corsets, PVC bodysuits, chains, spiked platform heels, and everything in between. Crowded public transport and extensive traffic jams had taken their toll on the audience even before the doors opened, and while some managed to stay excited, it was telling that the bar was constantly busy and that the sides and back end of the Enmore were crowded with people sitting down, even while the bands played.

Motionless in White opened the gig at 7:30 as the crowd was still filtering in, the Pennsylvanian six-piece’s set drawing their hardcore fans to the front as this has been their first Australian tour. With just a short playing time, the band went through their big hits including Creatures and Puppets, to the adulation of their small contingent of fans. The most popular song, however, was their cover of Rob Zombie’s Dragula, a track that got even those unfamiliar with the band singing and swaying along.

A short wait later, Wednesday 13 took the stage, his arrival heralded by banners proclaiming ‘I wanna be cremated’. Striding on stage with a sceptre in hand, the metal legend was sadly let down by some lighting and sound mishaps, so that even after having to scream for the lights to be turned on the quality of the sound was well under par, the levels not having been properly adjusted. Regardless of the difficulties, Wednesday 13 was still a brilliant performer, consistently energetic and continually trying to reel the crowd in. The big break was Homicide, at the first strains of which the crowd sang (screamed?) along, hands up in the air. Again, however, the most popular song was not one of his own, but a song from his band Murderdolls – 197666, a short, fast and loud number that got the heads banging and the fists pumping.

Newly reformed Coal Chamber were the high point of the night. The crowd went off, and the band fed off the energy in turn. Fiend, in particular, saw the audience go wild, the rapid guitars and passionately growled lyrics creating a fast paced frenzy that got them jumping and throwing their heads around. Rowboat was also played absolutely spectacularly, the sound reverberating through the whole of the Enmore and utterly immersive, the crowd pulsing in time with the guitars. For a band that has been split up for a decade and that reformed with a new bassist – Chela Rhea Harper – they played with the same temerity and cohesiveness as a band that had just been touring extensively . They ended with Sway, almost the entire audience joining in with the anthem’s lines “the roof the roof is on fire, we don’t need no water let the motherfucker burn. Burn, motherfucker, burn.” Coal Chamber exited humbly, with some prepping for Manson. It was they, however, who stole the show, leaving the crowd wanting more and with high expectations.

It was to these high expectations that Marilyn Manson emerged, the red silk curtains lifting up to reveal a stage completely covered in smoke, from which a silhouette could be vaguely distinguished. Starting with Antichrist Superstar, Manson was received with thunderous cheers and applause. Yet it wasn’t long before the audience realised that Manson’s slurring and incoherence were not intentional, but that he was definitely way past sobriety. For a crowd in which every second person was wearing a piece of Manson merchandise, it was like watching a car crash – even after they knew it wouldn’t improve, they were glued to Manson, with the grotesque curiosity of wondering what he would do next.

This isn’t to say that Manson wasn’t entertaining – despite looking pregnant, his butt wiggling at the audience and the way he threw around stage equipment were so out of the norm for musicians that it was fascinating. If only it had sounded better, he would have put on a wonderful show. As it was, however, people who had gotten up sat back down, and some left early. Those who did stay standing up were mainly the Manson fans who knew enough of the lyrics and Manson’s recorded sound to be able to fill in the gaps for themselves that his live show left. Manson finished with Beautiful People, a wise choice as that was what everyone had been waiting for, and it was at that that the crowd truly went wild.

It was a pity that Manson appeared to be in such a mess, and that the lighting and sound for the evening were not perfectly managed. The crowd, however, tired after a long working day and a long concert did not make much of a fuss, happy enough with Coal Chamber’s performance, and ready to head off without causing a ruckus.