Iowa’s favorite sons and heavy metal powerhouse Slipknot took to the stage at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater on Wednesday, July 6th, teaming up with Marilyn Manson and Of Mice & Men to bring the house down as one of the summer’s biggest tours hit the New York area. Slipknot are back on the road to continue supporting their latest album, .5: The Gray Chapter, which was released in in 2014. It’s been quite a while since I was a big Slipknot fan – I was somewhere around 12 or 13 when they burst onto the metal scene in 1999 and Wait and Bleed made them an instant success – but they’ve aged well for a heavy metal band in a generation defined by the likes of Justin Bieber and whoever the next pop superstar will be. The band has had their share of hits over the last 17 years, and they played just about all of them on Wednesday night before a crowd of around 6,000.
Slipknot chose wisely their support acts for this tour, bringing in Of Mice & Men and the always-polarizing Marilyn Manson to heat things up, and of course Marilyn Manson would be the one with the most theatrics. We’ll come back to that later, but first let’s talk about Of Mice & Men. It was just announced that they’ll be touring Australia with A Day to Remember later this year, and even though metalcore has never done anything for me, I can see why everyone is looking to grab these guys as an opener. OM&M only played about 40 minutes, totaling an 8-song set while most of the venue was still empty thanks to the tailgate party in the parking lot, but those who did make it inside for the set were treated to a solid performance by a band that’s fun to watch and, by metalcore standards, easy on the ears. I like Of Mice & Men after seeing them live, I really do, and it’s a shame their set couldn’t have been longer.
That brings me back to Marilyn Manson. As a 90’s kid, I remember Marilyn Manson at the height of his popularity. He was – and still is – a controversial, industrial metal goth maniac. In fact, he was so controversial back in the 90’s that my mother wouldn’t allow me to listen to him, calling his music “satanic cult music”, and of course, he was wrongly blamed as the inspiration for the Columbime High School Massacre. Needless to say, I didn’t get my first taste of Marilyn Manson until I was much older – I’ve only been listening to him for about 10 years now, so I’d say I was about 20 or so when I first heard his music, and while I liked most of his popular tracks (Mobscene, The Beautiful People, and his cover of Tainted Love), I never really had the urge to see him live. What the hell was I thinking all those years ago?
Marilyn Manson is an absolute showstopper, and while Slipknot was the real prize, the highlight of the night for the fans in the mosh pit behind me had to be getting dusted with blue and red powder – powder that got us photographers too (thanks, Brian) – and he came out with what appeared to be crutches at the end of his set, which was closed with The Beautiful People, obviously, as Manson stormed off stage and left the venue escorted by security immediately after his last song. He only played 10 songs, including his rendition of Sweet Dreams by the Eurthmycs, which was absolutely awesome in and of itself, but wow. Marilyn Manson may be controversial and he may like it that way, but he puts on one hell of a show and would have been very capable of headlining if not for Slipknot.
And that brings me to Slipknot. Like Marilyn Manson, I had never really had the urge to see Slipknot live. To e honest, I kind of forgot about them for a few years after the hype following their debut album died down. Linkin Park had hit the airwaves about a year after Slipknot, and I was also going through my seldom-mentioned rap phase at the time (why do I remind myself of that?), so I gravitated towards the mix of rap/rock that was popular back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s – Hybrid Theory and Kid Rock’s Devil Without a Cause were two of my favorite albums in the late 90’s – and Slipknot just didn’t really stand out to me at the time. Needless to say, my interest in Slipknot faded for a while, and I only picked them back after Paul Gray’s death in 2010. I’ll admit as a live music photojournalist that there are times in this business that I ask myself what younger me was thinking, seemingly a lifetime ago, when I stopped listening to certain bands in favor of others. Seeing Slipknot live makes me wish I could go back 15 or so years and kick younger me in the ass for not following everything they did.
Slipknot opened their 17-song set with The Negative One from .5: The Gray Chapter before going into Disasterpiece and Eyeless. Unfortunately, the only downside of this business is that when you’re in the photo pit, you’re not paying attention to what the band is playing, instead focusing on getting the shot in the 3 songs we’re granted to make our magic happen. However, once those three songs are over and we’re ushered out of the pit, those of us lucky enough to be granted a ticket (thanks Roadrunner Records!) get to sit down – or in this case, mosh like a madman from an Orchestra seat – and enjoy the show. And enjoy it I did. Before I Forget, Killpop, Dead Memories and Psychosocial, along with Wait and Bleed, highlighted Slipknot’s main set, which was absolutely crazy in the sense that even those of us with seats were on our feet, most jumping around with the band.
Slipknot briefly left the stage before returning for what would be a three-song encore of Surfacing, Duality and Split it Out to close the show. By this time I was exhausted and could do nothing more than take in the show, but those around me were still jumping and singing along with Corey Taylor, who despite his recent neck surgery is still full of energy and still gets around the stage – minus the headbanging and jumping he’s been known for in the past – and he’s still one hell of a performer. I’ve always been a fan of Taylor, and Stone Sour is one of my favorite bands, but Slipknot is a different animal. An animal that requires a much larger stage presence that Taylor is still very capable of delivering despite the obvious neck brace. The rest of the group are no slouches either, and the theatrics – including two masked men with garbage-can drum kits on risers beating them with bats as they fly around the air – combine to put on a great show full of ass kicking heavy metal and on-stage antics that are enough to make anyone fall in love with Slipknot, even this grown man whose younger self lost interest a decade and a half ago.
All told, Of Mice & Men, Marilyn Manson and Slipknot put together an amazing performance, and I’d gladly see any of them again – together or separately – because the show was that good. Slipknot and Manson have been at this a long time, and I can only wish I had given both of them more credit many years ago. They’re all some of the best performers I’ve ever seen live, and I’ll definitely be back for more.
All photos by Sean Murphy and copyright Sean Murphy Photography/Soundboard Magazine.