Multi-Platinum Bombshell Garbage Tells Houston Thank You
A Review By Jeremy Pierson
The undeniable theme running through last night's concert in Houston's Revention Center was "Thank you." Barely a year after celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their debut album's huge success - a multi-platinum bombshell - this Wisconsin based alternative rock band gave a spine tingling, no holds barred performance! Garbage orchestrated a perfect blend of songs spanning their entire catalog. We reconnected with all of the familiar hits from their first album 'Garbage'; which was intertwined with numerous songs from their most recent success 'Strange Little Birds', and a selection of hand-picked gems from the rest.
Houston fans were treated to the very first public performance of a brand new song during the encore. Before jumping into a flawless performance of the new song, lead singer, Shirley Manson, noted; Butch Vig, producer, co-writer, and drummer for the band, had only just flown in that day after having been out of the tour for several months due to health reasons. She said the band had, in fact, only rehearsed this new song once together, proof of how tight they are right now.
Pleased with their latest album, they had no reservation launching the evening with two songs from 'Strange Little Birds.' The audience responded immediately with overwhelming enthusiasm. By the time the band flew into 'Stupid Girl', one of their most commercially successful songs, the crowd was already peaking, and we all pretty much stayed there for the rest of the show.
Neither music nor crowd response would give any indication as to whether a song came from an album that sold more than four million copies worldwide twenty years ago, or from a more recent album that has sold fewer than a hundred thousand copies. (We'll omit the diatribe about the current economy and dwindling respect for virtually all popular art forms.)
There is musical variety, to be sure, with some songs feeling more like something Trent Reznor might curl up with on a rainy day, and other songs that hint more at the grunge roots of the founders. These guys clearly still have what it takes! So glad they made no bones about crowd pleasing, and slamming out their older stuff. Subtle shifts in arrangement gave classic songs a little something which allowed them to sit perfectly next to new material, while still satisfying our need for nostalgia.
The most striking musical update for any song of the evening was, in fact, to the band's hit single '#1 Crush.' It began with a dark and funky bass line, completely unlike the well-recognized riff on record, written by Eric Avery. The live performance of this song seemed to borrow from the original recording and also the remixed version from the Romeo + Juliet Soundtrack. Layer on an added something new beyond that, and abracadabra, a mysteriously awesome track! If released today, it should have no trouble finding its way to every iTunes play list.
Manson was so warm and generous throughout the evening professing the whole band's appreciation for the love and support they have been given throughout their career, appreciation for Butch Vig's recovery and rejoining the band on tour, and so on. Amongst these many declarations she took a moment to address the current political climate. In her words, modern culture has given rise to a new wave of hostility and prejudice. So, before launching into 'Sex Is Not the Enemy' Manson recognized their fans in the LGBT community. She let us all know Garbage, as well as legions of people are out there, behind the LGBT cause.
There were very few faces under the age of thirty in the crowd. However, I found myself hoping by the end of the evening Garbage would find their way into a next generation of younger hearts. I don't see any reason for them not to. In a world of over-produced hip-hop and rehashed synth-pop, fresh ears would do well to hear music collectively written, recorded, and performed by every member of a cohesive group.
I think a lot of what makes Garbage so distinct, is their organic creative process which flavors the final output. Garbage may be old school, but they show off a contrasting repertoire using all colors on the palate. Garbage is a great example of one set of musicians deciding that they want to take a little bit of grunge, a little bit of industrial, a little bit of trip-hop, and a little bit of pop, and then infusing it with all of the lyrical dissatisfaction and angst that every growing teenager needs.
The 20th Anniversary of their debut has been marked by a remastered reissue with accompanying B sides and I may need to add one more to my record collection.