Album Review: Marilyn Manson’s ‘The High End of Low’

Unlike just about every other album he has put out, Marilyn Manson doesn’t attempt to reinvent himself with The High End of Low, and it results in 15 tracks that build on past strengths without being just a rehash of his 90s glory. While the previous effort, 2007’s Eat Me, Drink Me, played as a diary entry into his soul – which at times I felt I wasn’t meant to hear – Low is meant to entertain, and that it does.

The hook song is Arma-Godd**n-Motherf**kin-Geddon, the Beautiful People of this album, and has the catchy riffs and singalongability as any of his greatest hits. And for that I say, welcome back, Twiggy. Some of the other songs may require a couple of listens, particularly the 9 minute I Want To Kill You Like They Do In The Movies, which is Manson’s When the Levee Breaks (not a remake, just to be clear). Unlike albums such as Mechanical Animals, which has several songs that would instantly hook a fan, Low might not do that (with the exception of the Armageddon song), but if you’re like me, it’ll grow on you pretty quickly. For a treat, purchase the deluxe edition of this album, which includes six bonus tracks.

Review: Def Leppard/Foreigner/Styx Concert at Nissan Pavillion

Def Leppard came to town (well, Bristow, VA.) Friday night, on tour promoting the 20th anniversary of the release of their most famous album, Hysteria. Unlike last year, when they were promoting their cover album, Yeah!, longtime fans got to hear what they’ve been listening to for years.

Naturally, DL played several Hysteria songs: Animal, Rocket (not the extended version like they did last year), Hysteria, Excitable (not one of their big hits), and of course Love Bites and Pour Some Sugar on Me. Fans were treated to acoustic versions of Two Steps Behind and then Bringin’ on the Heartbreak, which predictably went from acoustic to loud and electric half-way through. Following Heartbreak came the instrumental Switch 625, just as it does on the album High N’ Dry. They did play one song from Yeah! – David Essex’s Rock On, which is perhaps the best song off of that album. Also from High N’ Dry: Let It Go, Another Hit and Run, and Mirror, Mirror (Look into My Eyes), a song they haven’t played on tour since Vivian Campbell joined the band in the early 90s. From Pyromania, Foolin’, Photograph, and they ended the show with Rock of Ages.

I was scratching my head, wondering how they didn’t fit Let’s Get Rocked into the set, and was certain they would do it as a second encore. Overall, a pretty good show. Joe Elliot is certainly aging but still on top of his game, and he says the band is coming out with a new album and will tour again. So long as they play the old stuff, I’ll be there.

Earlier in the evening, Styx opened the show. While they put on an entertaining set, I have the feeling that most of the fans there were only rockin’ to Come Sail Away and Renegade. Then Foreigner took the stage, and I thought: They sing that? Hot Blooded, Juke Box Hero, Cold as Ice, Double Vision. Good stuff there… mostly songs that I know but had no idea that they sang. Now I’m off to buy their greatest hits.

Review: Def Leppard/Journey Show

Another adventure at Nissan Pavillion Friday night, where the journey to and from rivals the perils of Frodo and company to Mordor. The only reason to put up with such a trek is when Good Bands show up.

This time, it was Journey and Def Leppard.

Long without singer Steve Perry, and now without Steve Augeri as he recovers from a throat infection, the power-ballad masters let Jeff Scott Soto take the mic and belt such classics as Don’t Stop Believin’, Wheel in the Sky, Faithfully, Open Arms, Be Good to Yourself and others.

A casual Journey fan, such as myself, probably wouldn’t notice the difference in sound, just Soto’s stage presence. Augeri, with the long hair and white low-cut blouses, has the look for a band such as Journey, while the dread-locked Soto seems he’d be more comfortable fronting a heavy metal band. It was Soto’s first stand-in for this summer’s tour, and he didn’t do a bad job at all (for a casual fan, that is).

A year after touring with Bryan Adams, Def Leppard is now on the road promoting their cover album Yeah! (Read my Amazon review of the album here). For Def Lep, it was business as usual. The four Brits and a Scot opened with Let It Go from the High N’ Dry album, then Let’s Get Rocked from Adrenalize and Promises from Euphoria. From Pyromania, they performed Photograph, Foolin’ and Rock of Ages. They also did three Yeah! songs in a row: No Matter What, Rock On, and 20th Century Boy. Perfect time for a beer run.

They did a few more songs than usual off of the Hysteria album, including Animal, Armageddon It, and Hysteria, songs they don’t always do at their shows. They didn’t even pause in between some of these – each bled into the next. And of course, they did Rocket – an extended version – and came out for an encore with Love Bites and Pour Some Sugar on Me.

The show ended almost at 11 p.m., and it seemed they could’ve squeezed another into the mix, such as Bringin’ on the Heartbreak. But that wasn’t too big of a disapointment, because after all, Leppard likes to tour, and doesn’t shun D.C. (although I wish they’d shun Nissan and go to Merriweather Post). Joe Elliot ended the evening saying they’d be back.

And when that happens, we will come.

Review: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers/Stevie Nicks Show

Saturday, I sat in orchestra seats for the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers show at Nissan Pavillion. I’m not sure how I got orchestra seats – row F to the left – only a day before the show, but the people I sat next to did the same. Nissan must have just released them.

Trey Anastasio opened, and save for a few drunk people who know his music, the crowd was patiently waiting for 9 p.m. to roll around.

Then Tom Petty comes out, opens with Listen to her Heart and You Don’t Know How it Feels. Other songs he plays throughout the night: Free Fallin’, I Won’t Back Down, Mary Jane’s Last Dance, Refugee, Don’t Come Around Here No More, Learning to Fly, and Runnin’ Down a Dream. He also does the Traveling Wilburys’ Handle with Care, a Yardbirds song, and a couple other covers.

Middway through, Stevie Nicks comes out, gives Petty a big hug, and the two launch into Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around. Then Nicks sings the lead vocals on Petty’s I Need to Know with Petty on backup. Nicks came out later to sing another old duet (didn’t catch the name), then she sinks into the background with her tambourine, dancing like a gypsy with the strobe light flashing as Petty rocks out another hit.

Petty sang a couple of songs from his new album – Highway Companion – due out in a month, and they didn’t sound bad at all. The songs probably won’t rise to the top of his hit list but it’s refreshing to know that some aging rockers can still crank out good songs after 30 years.

Petty did three songs for the encore, You Wreck Me, Van Morrison’s Gloria, and American Girl. Nicks, wearing a different outfit, came out to sing backup for the last one.

Tom Petty, the five Heartbreakers, and Stevie Nicks took a bow, walked off stage, and left behind a very pleased crowd in Bristow, Virginia.

How I Became an Iron Maiden Fan – 23 Years Late

It was the Spring of 2003 when I was finally blown away by the music of Iron Maiden. It’s one thing to discover your favorite band when they’re brand new, and to anxiously await its new album every few years. But to discover it 23 years late, well, let’s just say I’ve never felt so treated in my life when it comes to music, not with one album, but more than two decades worth.

I had heard of Iron Maiden in the 80’s, when my friend, Dan, a jean-jacket wearing bully, told me that I couldn’t handle their music – I just wasn’t cool enough, apparently. My relationship with Dan was like Bart Simpson’s relationship with Nelson Muntz – we were friends by location, not because we had much in common. So, I never really heard an Iron Maiden song – well, maybe Number of the Beast once – until years later. Instead, I grew up listening to Bon Jovi, Genesis, Def Leppard, and Madonna, having no idea of what I was missing. I blame radio and MTV, which never plays Maiden’s music. But I could have heard their music, only if Dan had played it for me. This missed opportunity cost of more than 15 years.

It wasn’t until the invention of the MP3, and file sharing on college campuses around 1998, when I illegally obtained a copy of Run to the Hills.

I loved it, but I didn’t think to listen to other songs. I can’t count how many one-hit-wonders there are out there, and I’ve spent too much money on albums because of one good song. And if it was so good, why was it the only one available on that illegal file-sharing network at one of the University of Maryland dorms? It must be their only good song, I thought, and didn’t bother listening to any others.

Though I had never really listened to Iron Maiden’s music, I always enjoyed their artwork. Heavy medal albums with grotesque figures on them, like Metallica’s or Megadeth’s, have always appealed to me for some sick reason. One day in Vegas, I bought The Wicker Man T-shirt, and wore it though I had never even heard the song.

Now, keep in mind, even with MP3’s and illegal file sharing prevalent, I still didn’t bother checking out too many of Iron Maiden’s other songs. Somewhere along the line I got a copy of Aces High and 2 Minutes to Midnight, but I was still too busy listening to Run to the Hills and Number of the Beast to realize that I really liked those, too. I’ve noticed that sometimes I must listen to a song a few times before I know how much I like it. I had mixed feelings the first time I listened to Dance of Death, but now I listen to it regularly.

In 2003, I decided to buy the albums of my favorite artists, even if I already had copies of them. I suppose you could say I felt guilty about illegal downloading, especially with entire albums that I love. Before Korn’s Untouchables even hit stores, I was playing it repeatedly. So much, in fact, I went out and bought the real copy because I wanted the album art, too.

Because BMG Music Service gives you 12 CDs for the price of one, I started buying more albums that I thoroughly enjoyed, even if I already had copies. That included all three Eminem CDs. With four more albums to pick, and lousy options (those stamps BMG sends are sometimes horrible!), I decided to get Best of the Beast. After all, it had Run to the Hills, Number of the Beast, 2 Minutes to Midnight and Aces High, songs that were so good, I didn’t mind at all paying for them, and it clears my conscience.

When I listened to the album, I was nearly floored. Fear of the Dark. Virus. I listened to those two songs repeatedly. Each song outdid the previous. Incredible. I looked at Iron Maiden’s web site. What timing. They were coming to my town! I got a ticket, went to their concert, expecting only to hear the songs on Best of the Beast. Of course, they played others, like Iron Maiden and The Clansman. Again, blown away.

So I went back to BMG. I bought Rock in Rio and Brave New World. A couple months later, Dance of Death hit stores, and I bought it on the first day without even hearing it.

Then came Piece of Mind, The Number of the Beast, and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son in the mail. It was like finding multiple buried treasures at once. I was overwhelmed. I listened exclusively to Maiden for months, trying to catch up on those Wasted Years (haha).

I heard that Iron Maiden and Killers had a different singer than Bruce Dickenson. I was skeptical that I would like them. But on Live After Death, which I also bought, I very much enjoyed some of the early songs, sung in concert by Dickenson. I bought them, happy to fork over my money.

BMG didn’t sell any other Maiden albums so I had to go out and pay full price for Powerslave and Somewhere in Time. In total, I bought 12 Iron Maiden albums in less than a year, including two live double-disk albums. I plan to buy more, perhaps even the rest of them.

Never have I discovered a band that I enjoyed so much, so many years after they came about. If I ever speak again to my childhood buddy, Dan, the first thing I will say to him is, why didn’t you let me listen to Iron Maiden?