GARBAGE totally make trash of any claims of cynics that they might be tired old has-beens when they played at Auckland’s Civic Theatre on Wednesday night. They teased us older fans, perhaps a little, opening with the first track off their latest album. We sat and politely appreciated what they were doing. Shirley was taking control of the stage from the outset – her band of brothers providing a throbbing electro-rock soundscape from which she’d rule. But then, they played Queer – the entire Civic Theatre rose from our seats, and on our feet we remained throughout the rest of the entire show.
And what a fantastic show it was – a display of consummate professionals doing what they genuinely and truly love doing. There was no sniff of anyone going through the proverbial motions tonight – instead all original members, Butch Vig (drums), Stever Marker, Duke Erikson (both on keys and guitars) and, Shirley, of course, (and some other guy respectfully stepped back on bass) just owned every single one of us.
What struck me most about this show was how genuinely happy they all seemed to be here playing these songs for us. And I thought she was only happy when it rained! But Shirley took the time to engage with the adoring fans with such generosity of mutual respect; a strong sense of duty to deliver not only what we collectively wanted but more. After they played Blood For Poppies Manson removed her cape, it struck me as almost a symbolic gesture to discard her super-hero garb just before her first personal address to us to tell us, in that Scots accent, how thrilled they truly were to be here – and to prove it pushed out a fantastic rendition of Push It from Garbage 2.0
Later, Shirley would give one of the most sincere and genuine thanks to a support act, Ruby Frost, I”ve probably ever seen a touring international give a local – telling us how excited they are to have her on board with them and how they believe she’s a talent that will go far – warning us to watch this space, before an audience member interrupted with a shouted declaration of love for Manson. She smiled it off, but continued, with grace and poise to thank Ruby Frost who had supported them the night before in Wellington also. I thought this was very, very cool of her.
We were treated shortly afterward to a veritable trifecta of classic Garbage not long after – #1Crush from Romeo+Juliet; an intense and hard sounding Only Happy When It Rains – which truly roused the collected darker hearts of the room and then soothed us with a gorgeous synth-y and guitar less Milk.
Manson took another pause to share with us. Recalling the last time they played here; by this time talking with us like she’s just at the bar chatting with us, and launching into an anecdote “So I was here with my first husband” (you could hear the italics in her voice) “He was stood right about there..” she gestured ambiguously and we were playing #1Crush…” a lone voice, interrupts, and calls for them to play it – Shirley not missing a beat retorts in her Edinburg accent “We have already played it – I dunnae know where tha fuck you were!!” before continuing her story of how she had reached out into the audience and someone grabbed her hand and slipped her 10 day old wedding ring off her finger. She told us how she was seriously freaking-the-fuck out but continued to get through the song before shouting “would the mutha-fucker who just took ma’ wedding ring fooking give it back” and to her astonishment a “wee hand raised out of crowd” holding the ring aloft and returning it. Shirly wondered out loud if the culprit was with us tonight (I remember when this happened, and in hearing Shirly recount the story tonight hoped with my every ounce that the person was there and would admit the long-time-past transgression – but alas not – Shirley simply expressing her hope that he is “healthy, wealthy and wise” now.
Ahead of When I Grow Up, Shirley (who is by the way 46 years old now) did I don;t know how many push-ups on stage. But someone in the band was off-key, or something, Shirley demanded “Inot fucking kidding we’re gonna have to stop” and, while a guitar was replaced she paced around and around like a fierce caged animal. It was tense and exciting. It was live music and it went wrong before it went so very, very right.
She’d pause again to talk about how honoured they are when fans write to them about how their songs have, in varying degrees helped them deal with whatever things they were dealing with and how she felt a bond and connection with us troubled souls (because, seriously we’re all at least a little bit fucked up, aye – it’s called the human condition) and introduced the advise to us that The Trick Is To Keep Breathing before another show highlight – I Think I’m Paranoid – followed by their first ever single Vow which’d segue into Why’d Ya Do It – before closing with You Look So Fine, and if I’m not mistaken, that segueing into Stevie Nick’s Dreams.
They left the stage. We remained standing. Clapping, then stomping. An encore was, perhaps, inevitable – but the theatre of the pause was enjoyable. They returned to rapturous applause, but ever-engaged with her audience, amongst that racket, Shirley struck up conversation with a member of the audience who had left the seated area to join the front-of-stage assembly who asked for her to dedicate the next song to her sister who was elsewhere in the venue – offering her $20 if she did. “I tell you what, I’ll dedicate the song to her, you don’t have to give me the $20 – but when you leave here tonight, if you see someone, perhaps down on their luck, these are hard times after all, you give that $20 to them” she sagely offered before insisting that this sister make her way to the front to join her sister – which she did, from the row of seats immediately in front of me, and to the applause of the crowd. The song dedicated was Special – which seemed apt (and thankfully not the next song, Stupid Girl – which might have been a bit awkward. And then another moment of sharing, a dedication to Ashely Page who was in the audience – who had looked after the band back when he was a much younger man “and probably still a virgin” teased Shirley, when they were on Australian label Musheroom Records for whom he worked. I liked that Garbage aren’t too cool for school to say these things on stage and confident enough in themselves to pull it off without fear of sounding hackneyed or embarrassed. True stars – the closed with Beloved Freak from their latest album which just seemed really fitting.
I said it in a Facebook status before and I’ll say it again – Garbage were not, in the slightest, rubbish, and if anything, they totally took out the trash. Brilliant!
Words by Andrew Tidball
Photo : Alexander Hallag (shot at Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre)