Style over content is hardly the crime certain breeds of music enthusiasts will say it is. So although only Marilyn Manson’s most devout fans will tell you that he’s either a genius songwriter or a great singer, there’s no denying that after last night’s performance at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre, he can still crank out a dazzling shock rock spectacle.

After a theatrical but relatively sedate opening of “Hey Cruel World,” (guitarist Twiggy Ramirez’s colossal post-gothic snood an obvious visual highlight), Manson immediately upped the ante and the room’s energy with a fiery blast through radio hit “Disposable Teens”. The first of multiple costume changes followed, Manson emerging in a timely red Pope’s outfit, firing a handheld fire extinguisher into the crowd for good measure.

With the question of Manson’s health plunging his name back into the headlines following his recent on-stage collapse and pukeathon in Saskatoon, he chose to address the matter with ultra-dark humour during one of his rare mid-song chats.

“So I was dying of Canadian AIDS,” he announced, “but in the words of Eddie Vedder… No, I’m not going to sing it!”

“mOBSCENE” took the place of the unspoken reference to Pearl Jam’s “Alive,” Manson taking the opportunity to mime fellatio on a fortunately placed piece of tubing. After another change into a white dinner jacket and fur stole, along with a few crooned bars of The Beatles’ “Happiness is a Warm Gun”, the band ripped into a brooding, restrained rendition of “The Dope Show.”

The Bowie-influenced “Slo-Mo-Tion” saw Manson demonstrate guitar skills that would be generously described as rudimentary. It was followed by the obligatory cover section, “Personal Jesus” and “Sweet Dreams,” both performed in front of inverted American flags and introduced by a sequence of samples from political speeches by luminaries including Ronald Reagan and Martin Luther King Jr.

Even though irritating Conservative America is one of Manson’s primary joys in life, he clearly puts time and effort into being an equal opportunities troublemaker. With Marilyn Manson, there’s something to offend everyone. If mocking religion or paeans to drugs don’t do it for you, how about projecting anagrams of the word ‘rape’ behind the band?

A podium was rolled on stage for the finale of the martial “Antichrist Superstar,” its insignia and colour scheme leaving no doubt of the implied Nazi reference. Not that anyone paying attention to the message behind the medium could accuse Manson of supporting or even condoning fascism. That’s not the point he’s making. It’s dark satire designed to strike emotional chords. It’s as much concept art as it is rock and roll. The decadent, nihilistic character of Marilyn Manson is the star, not the music. Do you love him? Hate him? Fear him? Even understand him? There wasn’t a simple answer.

Considering that Manson and his band have been playing the same set list for the best part of a year (so sadly, no “Fight Song” or “This Is The New Sh*t”), the commitment to the performance was unwavering. And although an 80-minute show didn’t exactly deliver value for money, the barrage of imagery and ideas ensured that the 44-year old Manson certainly left the desired impression.

He also managed to get through the encore of “The Beautiful People” without vomiting. In a way, that was the only disappointment of the night.