Garbage in Dublin: Manson emerges on stage, an absolute badass

Review: 24 years after the multi-million-selling albums, Shirley Manson’s voice is note-perfect

Shirley Manson of Garbage on stage at Iveagh Gardens in Dublin. Photograph:  Kieran Frost/Redferns

Shirley Manson of Garbage on stage at Iveagh Gardens in Dublin. Photograph: Kieran Frost/Redferns

 

It’s almost 25 years since Garbage released their debut album, called Garbage, the cover of which still sums the band up: a rawly spray-painted black stencilled ‘G’ atop pink feathers.

It was 1995, the year after Kurt Cobain’s death, and grunge had been varnished over with a slick gloss, the tipping point of which was Garbage drummer Butch Vig’s production on Nevermind.

That first album took its cues partly from grunge, opening loud-quiet-loud with Supervixen, but Garbage managed to go beyond a genre, catching fans in a net cast wide, who would have been equally happy bopping to Nine Inch Nails as they would Blondie.

Vig (who isn’t on drums tonight), is 63 now – not that anyone counts the age of male drummers – but the essence of Garbage has always been Shirley Manson. Her smirking snarl of a voice, smart songwriting and co-producing prowess elevated the band from the minute she joined. Manson’s charisma and talent still keeps this band ticking over.

There are plenty of reasons Garbage has maintained its fans, and one is the sense that the musicians in the studio and on stage are fans themselves. Listening to Garbage was often an exercise in music nerdiness, with competing textures scrambling for attention – in them you hear the crunch of Depeche Mode, the fizz of pop, the glances of rock hooks – all compressed into, well, Garbage.

But while Garbage’s sound may have slid out of fashion on occasion, the songs stand up, and their concerts are an exercise in remembering how many of those tunes cut through then and still do now.

In fact, their stew-like approach to writing and recording has a lasting present-day resonance, beyond the sometimes overly processed studio results that plagued 1990s pop-rock.

At the Iveagh Gardens, where Aiken Promotions once again set out their stall in a crowded summer market of outdoor shows, all jostling for attention, and your ticket spend, another sunny Dublin evening unfolds. The crowd is large, and ready.

Budgets are also on the mind of the support act, the excellent Whenyoung who introduce Labour Of Love with a pitch for their debut album, released in May, “If you haven’t heard it, you should. You should buy it. We’ve got about five copies with us. It’s hard, you know, with Ryanair. ” The Others, is a highlight in their set.

Manson emerges on stage an absolute badass, a vision of goth-Victorian-gets-lost-at-Berghain-with-Vivienne-Westwood. #1 Crush sucks the crowd back to that omnipresent Romeo+Juliet soundtrack, before Stupid Girl delivers a wonderful sucker punch.

Manson takes a breather early on to call Whenyoung “local heroes”, saying, “it’s a delight to have such a lovely, talented, charming young band to open for us.”

Garbage ended a nearly 20-year drought of performing in Ireland when they played Electric Picnic last year. Saying that it’s an extraordinary privilege to be playing in Dublin again, Manson’s biggest shout out is reserved for Dan Hegarty for consistently playing the band’s songs on Irish radio.

So many years after those early multi-million selling albums, Manson’s voice sounds frozen in time – note-perfect, almost bolstered by age. The song Special showcases this spectacularly.

She shouts out their female lighting designer who she says is blazing a trail in the industry, their crew, her husband, the individual band members, their production assistant who is on her first Garbage tour, their tour manager, and more.

These are the credits rolled out for the final night of their tour. The celebratory energy continues, a muscle memory embedded throughout the set.

When technical issues interfere with the pack for her in-ear monitors, which causes Manson to feel as though there are “aliens in my pants”, she uses the opportunity to chat with both audience and band, with a looseness that adds something more than a perfectly choreographed, sanitised rock show.

“You must think we’re incredibly unprofessional,” Manson says, “that’s because we are.”

I’m Only Happy When It Rains follows a moment where Manson talks about her 83-year-old father travelling to see Victoria Falls, a life lesson in potential. That precedes another monologue in adoration of the crowd who applaud in appreciation.

Garbage’s fans are dedicated to the band, but the band is also dedicated to those here to see them play. It’s a genuine interaction and transaction of respect, gratitude, and appreciation. Darkness falls, and Garbage, in many ways, are home.

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