Marilyn Manson, with its outrageous front man of the same name, co-headlining an arena tour with Hole, featuring the always provocative Courtney Love, appeared to be the most exciting concert offering of the often-slow spring season. The two volatile acts spent weeks in January touring together as part of the lineup for Australia's Big Day Out festivals, where they decided that upon returning to the US, they would team up again.
Although short-lived, the Beautiful Monsters tour arguably generated more buzz than any other touring act. Proceedings got off to a rocky start, and never smoothed out for those on the road. Hole left, after only two weeks. Marilyn Manson renamed the tour Rock is Dead, and continued until, dogged by ridiculous accusations that its music somehow caused the tragic events at Columbine High School, cut its US tour short in April.
Production and lighting designer Roy Bennett had discussed touring designs with both bands before they decided to tour together. Manson had toured the US and Europe last fall and winter with lighting design by Ethan Weber and set design by Michael Keeling. With Weber committed to rejoining the Rolling Stones tour as lighting director in January, Bennett came onboard to consult with Manson about the upcoming arena tour.
"For Manson's show, I took Ethan's design and expanded upon it," Bennett explains. "Because this was a show that already existed, it entailed picking up on that and taking it even further. One main element was the T-bars set up with [Vari-Lite] VL6s on them, and I made them so that they could be taken away. Originally we planned to use them for Hole, and we were going to take them in and out during the show, but we saw that we'd have the flexibility to lose them if we had to."
To create more depth for the tour's arena venues, Bennett also added more backlight to the show. "A lot of that was through the use of the backdrops because, other than some banners, the show didn't have any real backdrops," Bennett says. "I felt it needed a little bit more depth, so I added an inflatable drop and another that is kind of like a Rorschach drawing. It's actually the inside tissue of brains, which I thought was suitably creepy--I based it on a medical picture. David Perry made them for us and they were constructed so they can be both front- and backlit. I also added a bunch of [High End] Studio Colors(R), because we didn't have really any kind of moving washlights on the show."
Standing fluorescents added another new lighting look to the show. "That was an element I thought would work really well with Manson," Bennett explains. "He is really enthusiastic about discussing designs. He loves people feeding him ideas, and he gets pretty excited about it."
Bennett also placed two Reich & Vogel spots with color changers on the downstage truss. "I really like using them for acts like Manson, The Cure, and the Nine-Inch Nails/David Bowie tours, because it's a really different kind of light source--it's incandescent," he explains. "These types of performers are pretty intense about making sure the spot hits them at the right time; the best way to do that is to make sure you get control over it. Besides having control over them, I like the softness and the actual size of the beam on them--which is quite big. Also, they physically look cool, so they're both aesthetically pleasing and functional."
Working with Doug Adams of Pyrotek, Bennett replaced some of the previous tour's confetti cues with pyro cues. The show still opens with the song "Reflecting God," but this time the first glimpse the audience gets of Manson is his ascension on a flaming cross made of static-emitting video screens.
"Pyrotek was great to work with--they're really nice guys," Bennett says. "Tait Towers manufactured the cross, PSL provided the monitors, and Pyrotek made the actual propane system for it. They manufactured it so that it ignites itself--it starts from the bottom, and then goes in an outline of the whole cross."
The show's set list remained almost identical to the previous tour's, so lighting director Gary Westcott was able to use a videotape of one of those shows to guide him in programming the show. "I went into rehearsals not knowing any of the music and not having heard or seen the show. So, we did watch t he tape and try to figure out some of the cue structures in some of the songs," Westcott explains. "I programmed everything into the [LSD] Icon(TM) console, so every song was in there with some of the lighting effects. I did the first four songs per the video, and then gave up and started lighting the songs myself because we couldn't see much of the color information. With the exception of a few, I relit them the way I thought they should be lit. I had a week of 10-hour days, because we split shifts equally between Manson and Hole."
"We were able to take the time to peek into the songs even more, and add more textures into the show, and make it bigger to fit the venues," Bennett adds. "We concentrated on expanding it and taking it to the next level.
"We didn't change anything about the 'Antichrist Superstar' section with the rally," Bennett continues. "When we went into programming, we pretty much stuck to certain basics of the songs as Ethan had done them, and used that as our starting point. Then we started piling on more cues, just for speed. Manson's very aware of everything, so we decided to try to keep some semblance of consistency between what Ethan did and I did, so that Manson didn't have to think about it and it wouldn't throw him off."
Manson's vision for his show is a very theatrical concept in which he starts off as an alien Christ who eventually transforms into an exaggerated rock star and is ultimately corrupted into Antichrist Superstar. "So we paced the show by keeping to darker colors to begin with, and then making it brighter and brighter as it moves into the Glam section. And, of course, we kept the huge 'Drugs' sign, for 'I Don't Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me),'" Bennett continues. "The audience lighting was really important, especially during 'Antichrist Superstar'--it's a big part of the song. I get tired of looking at Molefays, so I had Upstaging manufacture these round disks of leko reflectors. They provide the same effect as a Molefay, but a different feel."
Westcott, who ended up running the Icon console for most of the tour, dubbed the custom lights "Roy's bin lights," because they looked to him like the lids of "bins," or trash cans. At the tour's start, Alex Skowron (who ran the lighting for last year's European leg) ran the Icon while Sam Raphael manned the conventional board. Due to the artists' exacting standards, Westcott eventually took over running the Icon. "I had started to try to merge the two boards, but we never had enough time to get that done on the road," Westcott says. "Roy didn't want to have to teach one guy to run both consoles, so Sammy was always running the conventionals and calling the followspot cues--which were incredibly important on this tour. Sammy was very good. He was really into it; he's got good rhythm and timing and was on the ball the whole time. We had the same universal crew for both bands, except that after the first week, we brought in a carpenter to work specifically with Hole."
Having spent the two weeks with the band in Australia, lighting director Butch Allen also worked specifically with Hole on this tour. "Roy and Gary were really helpful in guiding me through lighting the set and using the system that they designed," Allen says. "They told me what would work and then they left me alone, which was really cool. Roy's backdrops are works of art--it was too bad it didn't last."
Bennett designed Hole's set as well, but as the band had not yet toured in support of its most recent album, Celebrity Skin, the designer had to start from scratch. "They kept changing their direction slightly, so I kept sending them black-and-white sketches until they signed off on something, then I'd go for it," he says. "We eventually figured out what they wanted--and so did they. The original idea was that it was all about the four seasons, so I did four backdrops kind of representing each of the seasons in an abstract way.
"Unfortunately, because of finances, we ended up with only the garden backdrop, a white plain cyc with a little bit of fullness to it, and a black scrim with a bit of very lightly modeled texture," he continues. "The black cyc was supposed to have a real filtery, swirly look that would suggest a snowstorm. Then we were also going to apply rhinestones to it, so it would look like it could either be stars or snow falling down. But that got scrapped. We also built a proscenium arch around the whole set out of soft goods--red velours with tassels and fringe. They wanted to cover their monitors and disguise them with little clamshell footlight things. So I had Tait manufacture carved foam pieces that fit onto the base of them, and I dressed the drum riser with an antique gold/coffee/red fabric on the front and some clear rhinestones on the base of it. It was kind of girly and also vaudeville-ish, but with a modern, sparkly cover."
While the band liked the design, Bennett was disappointed. "It looked all right, and they were really happy with it, but it could have had more equipment and looked nicer," he says. "I explained to Butch how the soft goods work by front- and backlighting, and what you can get out of them, and he did a good job with that. It's kind of sad, because it actually could have been a lot better than it was. A lot of details weren't worked out between management, and too much was left until the last minute."
After Hole left, Manson was forced to cut back on certain elements of his show for financial reasons. "It ended up being almost the same lighting system that they had out in the theatre, but with more cues," Westcott says. "I touched up the system for their European dates. They aren't bringing any moving lights, as they're doing festivals over there. First they go to South America for a few shows with Metallica and then to Europe. They are bringing the 'Drugs' sign and the strobes as well as a bunch of PARs on the floor for supplement.
"The show was great, we recreated the excitement and the dynamics of what Manson's music is all about," Westcott concludes. "Manson and the rest of the band said they thought the lighting was really impressive and he was really pleased with it. I don't run many shows these days, so that was a blast. I still quite enjoy that. Everything about this tour was so difficult, though. It was a learning experience for sure."
Band manager/snow effects: Tony Ciulla
Tour manager: Mike Amato
Production managers: Dick Adams, Jim Digby
Production/lighting designer: Roy Bennett
Lighting director/Marilyn Manson: Gary Westcott
Lighting director/Hole: Butch Allen
Board operator: Sam Raphael
Lighting crew chief: Ron Shilling
Vari-Lite technician: Adam Fine
Lighting technicians: Chris Johnson, Mike Zielinski
FOH sound engineer: Brad Madix
Monitor mixer: Maxie Williams
Sound technicians: Jim Staniforth, system engineer; Brad Judd, assistant engineer
Pyro designer: Doug Adams
Head pyrotechnician: Phil DiBello
Assistant pyrotechnician: Dave Caughers
Sound vendor: Electrotec Productions
Set construction: All Access, Tait Towers
Drapes/soft goods: David Perry Productions, Ltd.
Pyrotechnic effects: Pyrotek
Video monitors: PSL, Inc.
Main lighting contractor: Upstaging, Inc.
Additional automated lighting: Vari-Lite Production Services
(22) Vari*Lite VL7(TM) automated luminaires
(29) Vari*Lite VL6(TM) automated luminaires
(31) High End Systems Studio Color(R) automated luminaires
(11) banks of Encapsulite dual fluorescent fixtures
(6) seven-light ellipsoidal audience blinders
(16) Mole-Richardson Molefays
(16) Wybron 8-light Colorams
(25) Large-format color changers for strobes
(20) Wybron PAR can Colorams
(6) ellipsoidal spots
(70) Diversitronic 3,000W strobes
(2) Reich & Vogel beam projectors with color changers
(1) Light & Sound Design Icon(TM) console
(1) Avolites Pearl console
(2) High End Systems F-100 foggers
(2) Reel EFX DF-50 hazers
(25) sections 8' black prerig truss
(2) sections 5' black prerig truss
(10) black prerig truss corner blocks
(20) sections 10' black 12" box truss
(4) section 4' black 12" box truss
(8) black 12" truss corner blocks
(7) one-ton CM chain hoist motors
(12) 1/2-ton CM chain hoist motors
(1) motor control system
(1) 270-degree kabuki system
(19) aluminum T-bars