Concert Review: Garbage
Garbage are the perfect house band for our dystopian nightmare. Arriving dressed for battle as a glam-rock blade runner sent back to 2018 to save all of humanity, singer Shirley Manson stalked the stage while Butch Vig, Duke Erikson, Steve Marker, and Eric Avery wrestled a tempest of noise into a beautiful din. Celebrating twenty years of their landmark second album, the perfectly titled Version 2.0, the band dove deep into that period of their career; so deep, in fact, that many casual fans were in danger of drowning.
Opening with a pair of b-sides from the single for “I Think I’m Paranoid”, the band quickly established the theme of the evening. Version 2.0 wasn’t being revisited for nostalgic reasons. The album meant something important to the band and, more importantly, the fans in 1998. Twenty years later, the songs still sound ahead of their time and the issues they grapple with remain front and center in the lives of their fans. Nostalgia? Hardly. Garbage are still speaking for us today and these songs are a soundtrack for those who are defiantly different than society’s expectations.
The opening line of Version 2.0 – “I’ll tell you something, I am a wolf but I like to wear sheep’s clothing” established Manson’s persona as one of rock-n-roll’s most iconic performers. Wearing her own insecurities around her neck like shark’s teeth, her battle scars tell a story that nobody else was willing to tell in the mid-90s. Like The Smiths, Garbage were the band for the disenchanted and different but still managed to conquer the world, almost by accident. Their snippet of “Personal Jesus”, buried inside “Wicked Ways” this evening, worked beautifully because, like Garbage, Depeche Mode also found a way to straddle the line between underground cool and massive mainstream success and stay together as a band.
While the hits sounded as gigantic as ever, the show’s most memorable moments were the lesser known tracks that Manson repeatedly warned the audience about as a few misguided attendees sat anxiously awaiting the singles they could film on their phones and post to social media. Displaying incredible range, the band’s back-to-back covers of Big Star’s “Thirteen” and The Seeds’ “Can’t Seem To Make You Mind” threatened to steal the evening. The band’s electro-rock foundation found plenty of room for psychedelic flourishes and emotional tenderness. This was balanced by the wicked fun of “Get Busy With the Fizzy” which is well-suited to a night on the Vegas Strip.
Returning for an encore, the band delivered three songs that encapsulate Garbage, lyrically and musically. The moody “The Trick Is To Keep Breathing” was full of atmosphere and resolve as Manson implored the audience (herself?) to not give up. Their latest single “No Horses” followed with the band’s wall of industrial rock-n-roll painting a not-too distant dystopian future. Having declared this the apocalypse, the band switched gears one final time with “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)”, an anthem for the LGBTQ community and the band’s shiniest slice of unadulterated pop. It was an emotional release for everyone, musicians included, and the crowd jumped in time as one. Garbage took us on a journey tonight and left us dancing on a star in a more beautiful universe.