Claudia Sanchez, Staff Writer
It’s rare to listen to a 23 year old band that still manages to sound modern. Perhaps it’s because the 90s are back in full force, or because the songs themselves are still original and inimitable. Songs like 1995’s insistent and catchy “Vow” sound almost like Sleigh Bells’ guitar based power pop. Garbage, much like Nirvana, has somehow managed to find a large group of fans that weren’t born when their first album came out.
Garbage and their moody and energetic alt-rock united these two groups of fans and gave them an almost religious experience at the Masonic on Sept. 24th. The crowd was divided into two groups: young people aged 18 to 24 and super fans in their forties. The young women in the audience looked like they had imitated lead singer Shirley Manson’s 90s style of mini dresses, combat boots, fishnets and chokers. The older fans came dressed in vintage Garbage concert tees or in casual outfits that said, “I just dropped off my kids.”
Shirley Manson took to the stage in an undercutted cotton-candy pink side-ponytail, a yellow fringe minidress, artfully torn tights and combat boots. At 50 years old, Manson has an ethereal, almost ageless, quality about her. Her outfit, both comfortable and designed to highlight movement shows off the band’s flair for the dramatic. She’s hypnotizing as she prowls while twirling her microphone, jumps and turns while fringe flies everywhere and throws herself to the ground on stage.
Manson was particularly chatty on stage; she talked about feminism and loving yourself, her love for Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders (who sent the band a funny fax after they told her they had accidentally used one of her lyrics), the band’s long career, her love for San Francisco, and her hatred of Donald Trump (she closed the show by saying, “we love you San Francisco, say no to Trump,”) in her Scottish accent in between songs.
Garbage seems to be made to perform live. The songs sound just as good-if not better- as they do in their albums, every single note is precise and perfect without the use of any backing tracks. The obsessive and slightly creepy “#1 Crush” was a standout, as Manson’s voice goes from a breathy whisper to a desperate growl. Their setlist was a nearly perfect mix of their first two hit albums (1995’s “Garbage” and 1998’s “Version 2.0”) and their new work (2012’s “Blood for Poppies” and just released “Strange Little Birds.”)
The performance was a testament to Butch Vig’s producing talents. Vig, who pretty much created the glossy yet raw sound of 90s rock as a producer (credits include Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Siamese Dream,” Sonic Youth’s “Experimental Jetset, Trash and No Star,” etc.)
As both producer, drummer and co-writer (alongside Manson), Vig created a unique sound Garbage. It’s a mixture of heavier rock music (clashing guitars, distortion, a strong voice) with pop sensibility (catchy songs about heartbreak, love and self assurance as sung by a charismatic lead singer). This sound is perfectly encapsulated in “Why Do You Love Me,” a guitar heavy, frenetic crowd pleaser, with complicated, yet easy to memorize lyrics.
The crowd swayed and sang every word as if under a spell, sucked into the cult of Manson. A place where people are free to both accept and be themselves, just like the band does. Cell phones seemed to not exist in this world, as people danced and truly enjoyed the show, instead of trying to take blurry pictures.
The band seemed to also enjoy their last leg of the tour, with Manson saying, “we are incredibly grateful that of all the bands in the world, you weirdos have somehow decided to see us tonight, and we love you for it, and we’ll never forget it, and you bring us immeasurable joy.”