BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Returning to the Bay Area a year after their 20th anniversary performance at the Fox Theater in Oakland in support of their first new studio album in four years, Garbage kept its vow to their local legion of fans with a solid two hour career spanning set at the Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco on Saturday night.
Having promised to return with new material within a year during their visit to Oakland, the influential alternative rock band from Madison stuck to their word. Freed from the constraints of performing their debut album in its entirety, and touring in support of a strong new album allowed the band to present a much more balanced overview of a career that that is now approaching twenty million albums sold worldwide.
Fronted by Scottish lead vocalist Shirley Manson, sporting a pink ponytail while appearing in a yellow flapper dress with patterned leggings, Garbage’s grungy alternative rock sound is propelled by original members Duke Erickson and Steve Marker on guitar and Nirvana producing mastermind Butch Vig on drums. Even with Vig unfortunately absent on Saturday night due to an acute case of sinusitis, the continuity of having the same line up since it’s inception 21 years ago was clearly evidenced by the bands tightness throughout the evening.
Between sharing a number of heartfelt antidotes with her fans while continuously traversing the stage, Manson easily lived up to her reputation as one of the most energetic and captivating front woman in rock. Frequently gesticulating while delivering her vocals and rapidly moving across the stage throughout the evening, Manson’s stage persona ranged all the way from subdued to manic.
Playing six cuts from their latest effort, the guitar driven “Strange Little Birds”, provided a nice bookend to the early material as it was recorded on the bands own label. Manson mentioned how much freedom that provided the foursome in the recording studio contrasted with a previous experience where their record company went to the extent of pressing their authenticity by trying to get them to release a hip hop album.
Continuing her dialogue with the crowd, Manson recounted an anecdote about how Chrissie Hynde graciously granted permission to use a brief excerpt from The Pretenders song “Talk of the Town” on the single “Special” from their multi platinum selling sophomore effort “Version 2.0” in 1998. Contrasting the frenetic energy of “Why Do You Love Me” from 2005’s “Bleed Like Me”, Manson sang an extended stretch of the song from her back while lying down on the stage. The title track from that same album brought many smiles with its catchy refrain “After two drinks he’s a loser, after three drinks he’s a star”.
A slow paced intro to “Only Happy When It Rains” saw Manson seated on the floor again as the song’s beat crescendoed into the well known angst-filled anthem the third single from Garbage’s debut album has become. “Push It” concluded the regular set, but an extended four song encore culminating with an unexpected finale of the funky “Androgyny” from “Beautiful Garbage” capped the evening in a highly satisfying manner.
Saturday’s show was the last for the band before a four week break. Garbage returns to the road on October 20th for a pair of performances in Southern California before continuing their world tour in Europe, Australia and South America.