The Showman’s Art

I’ve only just realised – writing the title to this – that two of America’s greatest shock rockers have alter egos with female names; Marilyn Manson chose his by combining a glamorous celebrity with a notorious criminal whereas Alice Cooper was told a story about a New England witch of that name. Both play loud raucous rock music with controversial themes and subjects, wear outlandish outfits and lots of make up – and both put on a stunningly good live show. I’ve had the great privilege over the years to have seen both of them on stage a number of times, and I’ve never left disappointed.

And it’s interesting that both of them have been on tour to the UK in recent months, still putting on stage performances (with Manson in a wheelchair after suffering a broken leg) which are as good as any they’ve seen. You see, I believe that both understand the nature of performance; an audience go to see a show to be entertained, so give them something to watch. Whether this is Cooper’s fake guillotine or Manson on stilts, it’ll be remembered and talked about for a long time, which is the point.

Someone I know who knows these things said that many bands and musicians actually don’t make money from touring; they make it from the merchandise that is sold at the venue (provided you buy it from legitimate traders, obviously). So why do they bother? Well, it allows them to interact with their fan base but in order to attract new fans and keep the existing ones interested, you have to give them something worth seeing, and that is something that both Manson and Cooper understand inherently.

I can’t say what inspired them to do things this way, because I simply don’t know. I can say that it’s worth every penny of the tickets to go and watch, and is always highly entertaining (although if you don’t like the music, don’t bother). Perhaps a few other performers could take a leaf out of their books and entertain, rather than just show up on stage in a t shirt and jeans and warble a bit?

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