Electric Picnic review: Garbage – 45 glorious minutes from Shirley Manson
They don’t make grunge-pop crossover like they used to. This is what we’ve been missing
Garbage: Shirley Manson is a force of nature with a streak of introversion. Photograph: Dave Meehan
It’s almost too perfect that the skies above Stradbally open as Shirley Manson sings the opening lines of Only Happy When It Rains. Garbage haven’t played Ireland since 1998, the year they released their second album, Version 2.0. (It was a really clever title in the 1990s, young people.) Manson, Butch Vig and their bandmates have had their ups and downs since then, including a decade-plus break-up. Clearly eager to make up for lost time, they have packed some of their best-loved hits, and they duly blow the cobwebs off an Electric Picnic enjoying a Sunday-afternoon lull. As a showcase for Manson’s complicated stage presence – dressed in a bright-red bin liner, she’s a force of nature with a streak of introversion – Only Happy When It Rains is compellingly conflicted. Grunge guitars and pop vim meanwhile illuminate Vow; the still anthemic Stupid Girl showcases Vig’s extraordinary talents as an arranger. (The drums are what make the song, as they did on his production work for Nirvana’s Nevermind and Smashing Pumpkin’s Siamese Dream.) Manson apologises for a slightly tardy start caused by technical problems. She also offers her belated congratulations for the Repeal the Eighth vote – “Thank you, Ireland, for speaking out for women.” There are some inevitable new songs, including the gale-force comeback single Empty. As the rain corkscrews down, the lesson is that they don’t make grunge-pop crossover like they used to. For 45 glorious minutes Garbage remind us what we’ve been missing.