Oh, the 90’s. Oh, how I loved that decade. So much good music to come out of that flannel, baby doll dress, Doc Marten wearing era. So good that I often find myself still listening to music from my high school days. And one of my absolute favorite and most influential bands from that era: Garbage.
I remember when Garbage emerged on the scene, I was enthralled with them. I’d listen to their album repeatedly on my walkman and thought Shirley Manson was the coolest chick around because- well, she is. Fast forward to over twenty years later and my sentiments haven’t changed one iota. Manson is a timeless rock goddess who still makes me swoon over her badass-ness and this past Thursday night at The Shrine, Garbage set my 90’s teenage heart on fire. They brought all the nostalgia and then some to the packed LA show, which Manson referred to as “our hometown show.”
“I know it’s a bit of a stretch”, the fiery red head singer told the crowd in her Scottish accent, “but I live here, Butch lives here and Steve goes to school here, so I feel like this is our hometown- in America.”
The crowd cheered loudly, gladly accepting Garbage as Angelenos. “And I just want to say, as somebody who’s not from these parts, America has already been great and has been great for a long time. You have always been a shining example of liberty and freedom, I hope you’ll keep it that way, I hope you’ll use your voices! Go to the polls, show the world what America is really all about!”
Garbage got the night started off with a bang, opening the set with “Control” off their 2012 album Not Your Kind of People followed by two of their most beloved hits “#1 Crush” and “Stupid Girl,” which quickly got the exhilarated crowd on their feet. Manson looked ever so the portrait of a glam rock star, dressed in a beautiful white star glitter coat, which after a few songs she would remove to reveal a shimmery silver dress, complete with a multi ring collar necklace, black polka dot tights and black boots. Yep, 90’s fashion to a T, yet still rocking it in a way that didn’t feel outdated. The gentlemen (Butch Vig on drums; Duke Erikson and Steve Maker on guitarsand keys; and newer member Eric Avery on bass) kept it dark and simple, wearing all black.
The night was filled with all the favorite jams and would put any Garbage fan over the moon. What was especially entertaining was the interpolation of covers with some of their own songs such as “Wicked Ways” paired with Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” “Vow” mashed up with Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Maps” and one that I would not have seen coming- “Parade” mixed with Missy Elliot’s “Get Your Freak On.” The last one was so fun to watch live.
Manson introduced “Parade” as a song from their third record, which she admitted was the most misunderstood record, but also the most beloved. “We think it’s one of the best records and don’t care what anyone says.” During the song, Manson left the stage and wandered into the crowd, singing to fans and even playfully posing for selfies. One lucky fan even had Manson lay her head on his shoulder and sing right into his camera. It was such a cool moment to witness. You could feel the happiness of those fans lucky enough to capture those moments with their favorite rock star. Manson gave Missy Elliot some mad love and a shoutout at the end of the song as well.
It was moments like these that made the show quite special. Manson owned the stage while the boys backed her, rocking the fuck out. Shirley took time to talk and banter with the crowd and it all felt very genuine. At one point she even asked the audience if anyone had a hair tie she could use. A fan upfront quickly came to her rescue and Manson pulled her red locks up into a bun. “It’s surprisingly hot up here,” she joked.
She thanked her longtime fans and even started saying hello to die hard fans up front by their names. A fan named Kelly got a shoutout for attending 19 shows, Bob for attending 46 shows and then Manson told the crowd “actually that’s nothing, where’s Rene?” She searched for the super fan, who apparently has gone to an insane amount of shows, “at least 80,” Manson exclaimed. “When you perform for this long you get to know the fans, they’ve been with us since 1995 and they’ve given us this crazy life, a life of our dreams, sounds cheesy but it’s true.” It didn’t sound cheesy at all. It sounded humble, grateful, and very sweet. That moment warmed my heart. And Rene, wherever you are, whoever you are…how freakin’ cool that Shirley Manson is talking about you at a show you’re not even at! Cheers to you!
Garbage rocked The Shrine loud and hard for over two hours. They played all the hits, which sounded just as massive as ever. Those hits included favorites, “I Think I’m Paranoid,” “Cherry Lips (Go Baby, Go)”, “Special,” and “Only Happy When it Rains.”
For the banger “Push It,” Manson preceded the song with an empowering feminist speech and dedicated it to all the girls in the audience.
“With everything going on right now, I feel it’s necessary to speak out. I just want to tell every woman here tonight, that regardless of what you’re told, and regardless of what people in power vote upon, decree, it’s all all a fucking load of fucking shit!” The crowd cheered wildly! Yes, preach it Shirley!
“I want every woman to know, you are valuable, you are powerful and you can facilitate change, FUCK THAT SHIT, FUCK THAT SHIT!!” (Yes, yes yes!!)
She then took a moment to call out the men. “For any man in the audience tonight, who has made somebody pregnant and has enjoyed the benefits of an abortion, I hope you will join women in speaking out about protecting our bodies, protecting our futures, protecting our health and any man who’s here tonight who thinks it’s right that a man can take a woman by force and the fetus it produces is more important than a woman’s body, fuck you, you should walk out right now!”
Needless to say “Push It” had the crowd, especially the women, on a high. What a night!
Other songs included in the set were “Temptation Waits,” “Why do You Love me,” “On Fire” (an old school B-side), “Empty,” and “Dumb,” just to name a few. A couple of standouts for me were two slower paced tunes. “Cup of Coffee” is a haunting song that Manson said was inspired by Jacques Brel (I was clueless as to who that was but my friend I was with gave me the 411) and said it is possibly the saddest song they’ve ever written. The other standout was one of my favorite songs “Even Though Our Love is Doomed.” That’s such a great song from the 2015 album Strange Little Birds.
The night ended with a two song encore of “Bad Boyfriend” and last but not least the smash, “When I Grow Up.” What a phenomenal night! Garbage still has it! They’re a band that managed to make it in the mainstream world yet still feel like an underground discovery. I couldn’t be happier to see that they are still around, kicking ass and speaking out for those who can’t. Shirley Manson is an iconic performer and the band is insanely talented. It was one of the best shows I’ve seen this year and I left the concert in even more awe of the band.
Opening the night was artist Ionna Gika, who’s set I unfortunately did not get to catch but Manson sang her praises and called her original, and a goddess amongst women. I’ll definitely make sure to check her out next time she’s in town.
Words and photos by Betsy Martinez