Published on October 11th, 2012 | by Setsu Uzume0
Garbage Returns to the Stage
I’ve loved Garbage since I was ten years old. Back in 1995, my elder sister brought their self-titled debut album home from a concert. I was immediately hooked.
“She could only sing for a half hour when I saw her because of the nodes in her throat,” my sister gushed, “but I was so happy for those 30 minutes.”
On October 1, Garbage played at the Warfield theater in San Francisco as part of their most recent tour. More than ever, this tour is about pleasing the fans. Garbage has split and reunited many times before, including their indefinite hiatus in 2003 and again in 2007. However, through it all, they have retained the same irresistible hungriness that called to all of us outcast listeners long ago, each song on their first two albums clawing through you with renewed fervor. Scottish singer Shirley Manson and American musicians Duke Erikson, Steve Marker and Butch Vigand are back like never before. On October 1, Garbage and their fans came together again, and we became “Not Your Kind Of People.”
Though the new album received a lukewarm reception (given a C+ by the A.V. Club and a 6.4 by Pitchfork), the tour was about re-connecting with fans rather than focusing on commercial success. In an interview for Ponystep, Manson seemed overwhelmed by the love she received at her first comeback gig.
“The fans sang every single fucking word,” she said. “We couldn’t believe it! We were like, ‘This has never happened to us before.'”
The Warfield was half-empty when the opening band “Screaming Females” took to the stage. But despite the lack of audience, I was utterly blown away by the primal energy and raw talent of all three band members; lead singer and guitarist Marissa Paternoster looked tiny and sweet in her little black dress with white polka dots — until she transformed into a roaring, guitar-thrashing monster that had me bouncing and head banging in my seat (especially during “Doom 84”). But this was only a taste of things to come.
Screaming Females left the stage, fans packed in, the lights dropped and there they were — Garbage — launching into “Supervixen,” the first track off their debut album. Though fans didn’t dance much, they swayed while Manson vamped. Everyone sang. Beloved classics like “I Think I’m Paranoid,” “Queer,” “Stupid Girl” and “#1 Crush” rocked through the crowd. Lesser-known songs like “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)” were made brand new and sexier than ever, especially when the band slowed down under deep blue lights for “I’m Only Happy When It Rains.”
Like former lovers rekindling a romance, Garbage reminded us why we fell in love with them in the first place, sticking to their best known material. The only new tracks that were performed were “Blood For Poppies” and “Battle In Me.” Manson joked with the audience that “Battle In Me” had been designated as her “cougar song” when in fact the lyrics were written about the extreme opposite: losing her virginity.
“Losing my virginity, by the way,” Manson added, “was just unpleasant. What a disappointment.”
She laughed as the fans screamed.
“I can’t believe I’m talking about this on stage,” she said. “Just calm down, everyone! It’ll be all right.”
Manson’s whispers and growls on her albums are nothing compared to her gorgeous, commanding voice in real life. Even from my seat in the back of the theater, I felt as though I personally knew her through her performance. At one point, Manson began opening up about her mother, revealing that the Warfield was the last place her mother saw the band perform before she passed away.
“There are a lot of ghosts here in this room,” she said.
She was right. Garbage’s utter sincerity and familiarity called up a long-ago time when these same songs were still playing on the radio. There was something unbelievably reassuring in the fact that Garbage’s music can still reach out and resonate with us after all these years.
“I knew you were mine for the taking,” she sang… And we were.
Photo courtesy of Pierre Le Leannec