EVEN ON a day when many in the rock fraternity did not feel like celebrating, there were a couple of good reasons to wave the pink feather boas for Garbage, as the Scots/American band brought their 20 Years Queer anniversary tour to a close in singer Shirley Manson’s hometown – their first appearance here, by her reckoning, in thirteen years.
Garbage | Rating: **** | Usher Hall, Edinburgh
This celebration of their self-titled debut album and the music they were making at the band’s inception in 1995-6 was trailed first by music from that era - Chemical Brothers, Cornershop, Nick Cave - and then by a collage of footage depicting the budding band frolicking together. When the curtain dropped a few moments later, it became apparent there are portraits in attics somewhere in Madison, Wisconsin, so sprightly are this now middle-aged group.
Their music, dispatched with well-drilled economy throughout, has also aged pretty well, thanks to its somewhat generic radio rock sound, not entirely confined to its times.
But their particular elixir comes from the obvious onstage chemistry of the band, who where positively bouncing around on last-night-of-the-tour energy and, in Manson’s case, high on the support of the home crowd.
For all the precision piledriving provided by her bandmates Butch Vig, Steve Marker, Duke Erikson and touring bassist Eric Avery, formerly of Jane’s Addiction – each introduced with their own snippet of theme music later in the show – this was Manson’s gig through and through, whether prowling the stage on the vampish Queer, or playing the torch song seductress on the beseeching Milk, both providing a dynamic contrast to the relentless heatseeking riffage of the more clamorous numbers.
She was a galvanising presence too, able to interrupt proceedings in order to pay tribute to the victims of the Paris terror attacks and issue the petition to “be optimistic, be kind, be tolerant, be educated… practise peace always”. She was only thrown once, when her father Mitchell was invited onstage by the rest of the band so that they could affectionately toast the Manson family.
Then it was back to business with a closing volley of singles including a powerhouse Only Happy When It Rains and their chunky debut Vox, with Manson accessing her inner Patti Smith to deliver her most impassioned vocal of the night, allowing herself to relinquish that little bit of control as it brought the set to a pummelling conclusion.