Garbage at The Fillmore, Philadelphia, PA, July 30, 2016,
Aug 11, 2016
Photography by Joseph Cultice Web Exclusive
It's been 21 years since Garbage released its self-titled debut. It was a statement piece from the quartet of Shirley Manson, Butch Vig, Duke Erikson, and Steve Marker and an album like few others at the time, a perfect melding of heavy rock, punk attitude, lyrical statement, and pop sensibility that came to help define "alternative." With songs like "Supervixen," "Vow," and "Stupid Girl," it was the most dangerous sounding music to hit the mainstream airwaves in recent memory, catapulted by the infectious single, "Only Happy When It Rains."
In late Spring, Garbage released its sixth album, and Strange Little Birds is the band's strongest in years. Last year's live performances of its 1995 debut album in full were well received, and Strange Little Birds brings the band around again, this time with a more varied setlist.
On this Saturday night, Garbage stormed out of the gates like gangbusters, running through eight songs spanning its catalog, performed with furious intensity, before Manson even paused to address the crowd. These eight-"Supervixen," "I Think I'm Paranoid," "Stupid Girl," "Automatic System Habit," "Blood for Poppies," "The Trick is to Keep Breathing," "My Lover's Box," and "Sex is Not the Enemy"-were a rounded representation of the band's catalog. The big hit, some hushed ambiance, a deep cut, some pop melodies-enough catalog material to sate the diehards and enough old stuff to satisfy the casual fan.
Manson's presence was remarkable. She stalked the stage, menacing, dangerous, the quintessential bandleader, in control of herself, her band, and every single member of the audience, wrapped around her finger. [It should be noted that Butch Vig was not present on this night, sidelined by a sinus infection, but he was more than capably replaced by Eric Gardner.]
After the initial eight came a bit of lightheartedness, showcasing Manson's pinpoint wit and firebrand sense of humor. As the band started the opening riff for "Special," from 1998's Version 2.0, Manson quickly realized that the guitar was not in tune, stopping the song. "We perhaps need to guitar tuned to the right key; I'm gonna blame my husband," Manson exhorted, referring to Billy Bush, the band's longtime guitar tech. "There will be repercussions to these actions." Of course, the song was restarted and played without flaw.
"Even Though Our Love is Doomed," from Strange Little Birds had Manson silhouetted, bathed in darkness, the song complete with powerful crescendo and Manson singing with hands held behind her head. "Why Do You Love Me," from 2005's Bleed Like Me was rendered a furious rocker, with a palpable tension present such that moshing would have been the only sensible solution if not for the crowd, which was clearly past its moshing days. "Push It" was more all-out intensity. And "Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)" ended the set proper, with Manson dedicating the song to the band's LGBT fans, saying, "We got your back."
The band encored with two newer songs, "Sometimes" and "Empty," the latter an especially powerful statement, and finally, the old b-side, "#1 Crush." 22 songs in 1 hour, 45 minutes. It felt like it went by in an instant. A beautifully cathartic instant. Garbage can't tour again soon enough.
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