By John Curley
Like many Scots, Shirley Manson speaks her mind directly and honestly with no social filter. That is one of the characteristics that endears her to fans of Garbage. During Garbage’s stellar concert at the beautifully restored Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, NY on Saturday night, October 24th, Manson spoke to the crowd often and at length, and, at times, quite emotionally.
In addition to Manson on lead vocals, Garbage also features Steve Marker on guitar, Duke Erikson on guitar and keyboards, and Butch Vig on drums. The band are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their self-titled debut album this year, and they are honoring the occasion with a tour that they have dubbed “20 Years Queer.” Garbage are being augmented on this tour by bassist Eric Avery, formerly of Jane’s Addiction.
Following a good 30-minute set by opening act Torres, a short film projected onto the stage curtain showed highlights of Garbage 20 years ago. When the film ended, the band, which was still behind the gauzy white curtain, kicked into an explosive version of “Subhuman.” Back lit by strobe lights which changed from white to pink and back again, the band appeared in silhouette against the curtain. It received a huge reaction from the crowd and was an incredibly effective way to start the show. When Garbage started to play “Supervixen,” the second song in the set, a stagehand rushed onto the stage to rip the curtain down, revealing the band to a massive roar from the crowd. The guys in the band were all clad in black while Manson wore a long, sleeveless pink top, black tights, and white boots.
After the band played an extended version of “Queer” that got a nice hand from the crowd, Manson delivered the first of several monologues on the night. She talked about how thrilled the band were to be playing such a beautiful venue as well as how grateful the band were that their fans have stayed with them, and how that fanbase has grown, over two decades. Before the band launched into the next song, “Girl Don’t Come,” Manson spoke candidly of how she learned about the female orgasm at 13 and how many women just accept that they are not going to achieve orgasm during sex.
Manson paid tribute to The Jam prior to the performance of the cover version of The Jam’s “The Butterfly Collector” by talking about how much she respected The Jam’s socio-political stance and stated that she is a big fan of Paul Weller’s songwriting. She then added that she wasn’t exactly sure what the meaning of “The Butterfly Collector” was but that she always assumed that it was about “starf---king.”
According to Manson, “Driving Lesson” concerned her desire to learn how to drive after moving from Edinburgh to the wide open spaces of Madison, Wisconsin when she joined Garbage. The performance of the song was pretty funky with some robotic-sounding vocals.
Garbage were absolutely on fire during the performances of “Fix Me Now” and “My Lover’s Box,” which featured some fantastic guitar work by Marker. They changed direction with the atmospheric “Sleep” before storming into an incendiary version of “Vow.” Few singers can command the stage like Manson, and she showed her mettle during the performance of “Vow.” She stalked around the stage, barking out the lyrics for most of the song. They extended the song with some jamming at the end over which Manson did a spoken-word bit. The crowd went bonkers when it was over.
The main set closed with the triple threat of “Only Happy When It Rains,” Stupid Girl,” and “#1 Crush.” “Only Happy When It Rains” started off slow and bluesy, like a torch song. When the band kicked it up a notch, the crowd went crazy. The performance of “Stupid Girl” had a dance vibe to it, and the audience loved it. Manson discussed how “#1 Crush” had been left off their debut album and when the director Baz Lurhmann asked the band if they had a suitable song for the soundtrack to his 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, the band gave permission to use “#1 Crush.” And it turned out to be a big hit for the band. It was a great choice as a set closer, and got a big cheer from the crowd.
Before the encore started, Manson almost broke down as she told the story of how she went to see The Smiths in concert at the Edinburgh Playhouse when she was 15 years old, how much that show had meant to her, and how The Smiths’ songs had really resonated with her. She then said that she had that same feeling fronting Garbage on the night in a beautiful venue and in front of an appreciative audience. She then segued into discussing Vic Chessnut, because they were going to play a cover of his song “Kick My Ass.” And, before the song started, Manson paid tribute to those that had worked with the band over their 20 years who have passed away.
The highlight of the encore was an explosive version of “I Think I’m Paranoid.” It was Garbage at the height of their powers, really, and it drove the crowd into a frenzy. Not wanting the spectacular show to end, many in the audience danced and sang along to the final song of the night, “When I Grow Up.” And Garbage received one more massive roar from the crowd when they took their bows before leaving the stage.
Garbage have been on a roll since the band reunited in 2012 after several years apart. And their show at the Kings Theatre was proof positive that they still have a bright future ahead.
Garbage’s setlist was as follows:
Girl Don’t Come
As Heaven Is Wide
The Butterfly Collector (cover of song by The Jam)
Not My Idea
Fix Me Now
My Lover’s Box
Dog New Tricks
A Stroke of Luck
Only Happy When It Rains
Kick My Ass (cover of song by Vic Chessnut)
Trip My Wire
I Think I’m Paranoid
When I Grow Up