Sincerity, Silliness & a Ton of Sound

By Chris Klimek
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, August 1, 2007

He thanked the crowd profusely, spoke eloquently against the war and issued a beatific proclamation: "We're all here to enjoy one another." James Taylor,

picking at his acoustic from atop a stool somewhere?

Er, no. That would be Tom Araya, bass-playing frontman of Slayer, which for 25 years has played genre-defining thrash metal that sounds as if it could shear the wings off aircraft.

At Merriweather Post Pavilion Monday night, co-headlining a bill with Marilyn Manson, Slayer was true to its name, pummeling the internal organs of the aging faithful with a 70-minute set that had war very much on its mind. "Bitter Peace" shared the stage with such similarly themed classics as "Chemical Warfare," and Araya dedicated "Mandatory Suicide" "to all the un fortunate sons."

The wall of sound was both figurative and literal: Thirty-six Marshall amps towered behind Araya, to either side of Dave Lombardo's elevated drum kit. Between songs, Araya was the flower of courtesy, but his band was unrelenting -- with Lombardo, especially, in bruising form.

After Slayer closed with an apocalyptic "Angel of Death," a break of more than an hour sapped momentum before Manson finally came out for a career-spanning 75-minute set that boasted more costume changes than a production of "Cats" starring Cher. (Probably some of the same costumes, too.) The opening "If I Was Your Vampire" featured its own knife-blade-equipped microphone, with which Manson mimed slitting his own throat. One roadie's sole job appeared to be to reset the mike stand whenever the star kicked it over. He got quite a workout, since his boss believes that any rock-star gesture worth doing once is worth doing six times.

Audio clips from "Alice in Wonderland" and Stanley Kubrick's film version of "Lolita" played over set changes while props were readied, including a gigantic chair for "Are You the Rabbit?" and a hydraulic riser that propelled Manson above the crowd for "The Love Song." It was all a lot more funny than it was scary -- and the combination of the tightness of the band, the slickness of the production and the indifference of the star all suggested the show would have been almost as good without him. When he bared his behind, you wondered if his heart was really in it.

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