My third day in Los Angeles started with a quiet morning the main highlight of which was spotting a huge military transport plane with a lot of security around at LAX and a throwaway comment from Nick about it being the sort of plane President Obama’s amour super-limo gets carried in – more on that tomorrow.
The afternoon and evening however were a different affair as we headed first to the California Science Centre where the Space Shuttle Endeavour is housed within an excellent science museum complex.
Before we even entered the museum both Nick and I were excited to see a real (decommissioned) SR-71B, more commonly known as the Blackbird, on display alongside the centre’s car park. Both of us had fond memories of having toys of these aircraft as youngsters and seeing one in the metal was quite something, but only a hint at what was to come inside the museum.
Inside the museum we headed upstairs and into the Space Shuttle Endeavour exhibition. Before we got to the Shuttle itself the Science Centre lead us through an exhibition about its creation, much of which took place in California, and some of the general aspects of the Shuttles including a set of used wheels and an amazing montage of all the shuttle launches running at the same time – notably including the tragic Challenger launch from 1986.
The other part of the pre-shuttle exhibition took a look at how Endeavour was transported from the VAB in Florida to the Science Centre in Downtown LA. This involved a flight for the shuttle riding on the back of a Boeing 747, with a dual fighter escort, that saw it fly over San Francisco leading to some impressive views of it and the Golden Gate Bridge before landing at LAX and being transported on a huge ‘truck’ through the streets of Los Angeles with thousands turning out to watch the enormous shuttle’s progress.
After the preliminary exhibition it was time for the main event in a specially constructed hanger. Upon entering Endeavour fills your field of vision on its gantry holds it no more than 10 feet above the floor so you can read the markings and serial numbers on each hand positioned heat-resistant tile.
Neither words nor photos can really do justice to Endeavour as, while it is clearly very impressive in pictures, in person she gives off an air of something extra that I can only put down to being one of the few things you can easily see that has spent an extended time in space and is on of man’s greatest scientific creations.
Should you ever make a trip to Los Angeles going to see Endeavour is a must as it is a real marvel and an experience I can only compare to seeing the Saturn V at Cape Canaveral in Florida and even then this is something extra as that Saturn V had never actually launched.
As well as Endeavour the Science Centre is also home to artefacts from the history of space travel from Gemini and Apollo to Hubble and Cassini all of which made for an amazing afternoon.
After leaving the Science Centre I got my first (and thankfully only) real taste of LA traffic as we headed from Downtown towards ‘The Valley’ and Universal Studios for an evening of hard rock and heavy industrial metal from Alice Cooper and Marilyn Manson.
Support at the show came from LA band Picture Me Broken who, at first, seemed to be a fairly generic dance/metal crossover with a sequencer replacing their bass player.
As their set went on though it became clear this band had something extra, particularly in the form of the presence and charisma of singer Brooklyn Allman and, even though they were playing to a half empty Gibson Amphitheatre, they played a great set that, by the end, seemed to be getting through to the crowd, most of whom seemed largely unfamiliar with the band.
In the lead up to this show I’d been wondering what order Manson and Cooper would go on in as, while Cooper is clearly the godfather of what Manson does, in terms of energy I thought Manson’s music might make for a bigger finish, well my questions were soon answered as the man who used call himself The God Of Fuck hit the stage with Twiggy Ramirez back by his side (now on guitar) and a bunch of anonymous but suitably gothed up chaps filling out the rest of the band.
It was soon clear that, compared to my previous experience of Manson live, this was going to be a cut above and dedicating second track Disposable Teens to Paris Jackson (who had hit the headlines for attempting suicide and wanting to attend the show the day before) Manson was on blistering form both musically and in his usual media baiting role.
Highlights of the set including the aforementioned track, The Dope Show, Personal Jesus, Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) and The Beautiful People all of which came with a spectacular selection of sets and costume changes that made for more than a gig, but a full production show rivalling many pop acts and toeing the line between rock ‘n’ roll show and full on theatre.
So, how would the godfather compare to the arguable pretender?
Well, as he launched into Hello Hooray with a backing band including true guitar heroine Orianthi, it was clear that Alice Cooper was at least a match for Manson. Across the set Cooper acted the ring master for both his band and the crowd who lapped up his performance and sang back every song from hits like Poison and Feed My Frankenstein to the slightly less well-known numbers – though it was clear both headliners were giving us a mainly greatest hits set.
With the first half of the set being a comparatively straight performance spanning Alice’s 1970s and 80s tracks the second half went into full theatre mode as Alice was electrocuted, turned into a giant Frankenstein version of himself before being bound in a straightjacket, trying to kill his nurse and, inevitably, being decapitated live on stage by a guillotine in a spectacular bit of stage trickery.
The show was rounded off with Alice returning for School’s Out (including an extract of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall) and then a duet of I’m Eighteen with Marilyn Manson which brought the show to a suitably high conclusion as two generations of ‘shock rockers’ shared the stage to end a truly extraordinary show.