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“Oh my god. I can’t begin to tell you over the last 20 years how many ‘Spinal Tap’ moments we’ve had like this,” Shirley Manson said with a nervous giggle a few songs into Garbage’s Greek Theatre show Thursday night, after the sheer curtain they were playing behind came down early and draped over her guitarist. “Yes that was one of many [of those moments] we’ve had, but the unfortunate thing is it’s happening here at the Greek, a place we’ve been dreaming about playing. You just can’t plan this shit, can you?”
||| Photos by David Benjamin
No, you can’t, Ms. Manson … Things happen and sometimes it’s on stage in front of thousands. How each performer handles snafus and lets them affect their performances can be illuminating, but it can also be disillusioning depending on the artist’s talent and/or diva tendencies. Thanks to Manson’s candor and charm, Garbage was full-on the former.
Technical difficulties and feedback issues occurred pretty much the entire first half of the set as well, but the Scottish singer took it in stride, opting not to play it off as some might, but to share her feelings about the problems with the crowd. In the process she not only made lemonade out of lemons, she spiked it nice and strong. The set was delightful, delicious and real. Perhaps the technical issues and curtain snafu made it more entertaining than it might have been otherwise? The curtain came down literally and figuratively, but knowing the kind of performer Manson is, it would have anyway. It just happened earlier than planned.
She talked a lot Thursday night and pretty much everything she said was heartfelt. A lot it was funny and some of it was provocative. Manson does her share of swearing, but it’s always to highlight a feeling and express herself fully. This is true in interviews and via her social media posts. And it was true last night. Understandably, she was feeling a lot, but despite the sound problems, she made us feel a lot too.
Manson’s been our favorite red-headed rock chick since the band began back in 1995. Call it the “It factor,” call it timing, but she had the whole package regardless: cool image, velvety/vampy vocals and completely fearless lyrics that met their match in Garbage’s rhythmic hooks. When producers Butch Vig, Duke Erickson, and Steve Marker brought her into the fold to form the band, it was never a figurehead type of role. She took reign in a commanding and compelling way that proved her to be total rock star all by herself. The talent and allure was there in her previous bands (Angelfish and Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie), but the skill and songwriting level of her bandmates clearly inspired her to fully emerge and evolve.
Marking the 20th anniversary of the band’s debut, Thursday night’s show offered a full playback, including hits (“Queer,” “Only Happy When It Rains,” “Stupid Girl,”), two covers (Vic Chesnutt’s “Kick My Ass” and the Jam’s “The Butterfly Collector”) and beloved B-sides (“Girl Don’t Come,” “Milk,” and the encore’s closing number, “#1 Crush.”) The sexy closer felt less dark as a climax, and it wrapped up the night nicely, as a hypnotic and ironically hopeful end to a bumpy but pretty brilliant show.
“Tonight was supposed to go smooth as silk and be fluffy as feathers,” lamented Manson mid-set, as she caressed the pink feather boa tied to her mic stand. “But that was not our fate. Tonight you’re getting something unique.”
And we did. But then again, when it comes to Garbage, we expected nothing less.
Setlist: Subhuman, Supervixen, Queer, Only Happy When It Rains, As Heaven Is Wide, Kick My Ass, Not My Idea, A Stroke of Luck, Girl Don’t Come, The Butterfly Collector, Trip My Wire, Sleep, Vow, Stupid Girl, Dog New Tricks, My Lover’s Box, Fix Me Now, Milk, Push It, Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!),#1 Crush