Review: Garbage rock out with new album, tour Special

Posted May 30, 2012 by Cate Kustanczy
Rock-pop band Garbage were known back in the 1990s for hits like "Stupid Girl" and "Only Happy When It Rains." Their latest album shows a harder edge but keeps the synth-pop-meets-hard-riffs sound vividly, defiantly alive.
Lead Garbage singer Shirley Manson rocked Toronto s Phoenix Concert Theatre during a recent tour sto...
Lead Garbage singer Shirley Manson rocked Toronto's Phoenix Concert Theatre during a recent tour stop.
Veronica Sinnaeve
The band--with members Duke Erikson and Steve Marker on guitars, Eric Avery on bass, producer Butch Vig on drums, and vocalist Shirley Manson--recently played Toronto as part of an international tour to promote their latest release, Not Your Kind Of People (StunVolume), their fifth album.
With a string of successful hits in the 1990s, as well as an opening spot on U2's 2001 Elevation tour, Garbage sold over thirteen million albums and garnered a huge, dedicated fanbase. However, the band grew dissatisfied as singer Manson told The Telegraph's Neil McCormick in a recent interview: "We were under so much pressure to perform in the charts, get on the radio, make more money. I felt it was an insane way of measuring and valuing music. I just couldn’t stomach it any more.”
Garbage disbanded in 2005, and Manson went on to act in Fox's "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" on television, but she grew restless and yearned to return to music. She told McCormick, I’m a loud person, I love noise and aggression. I crave contact. I needed to make that connection again. I think we all did. To get something back up when there was absolutely no momentum took a Herculean effort on everybody’s part. It’s like pulling yourself out of mud.
Garbage successfully escaped the bog and appeared utterly revitalized at their recent live show in Toronto, where the capacity crowd at the intimate Phoenix Concert Theatre greeted them with the enthusiasm of boxing champs. It was their first time in the city in seven years.
Garbage offered up hard-edged versions of old favorites as well as new material.
Garbage offered up hard-edged versions of old favorites as well as new material.
Fans of all ages ecstatically sang and shouted along to old and new material, familiar with even deep cuts going back to the band's 1995 self-titled debut album. Their 1998 hit "Special", with its angry central question ("Do you have an opinion?") delivered with ringing insistence by Manson, was given a heavy, guitar-driven wall of sound courtesy of Erikson and Marker. The track was cleverly bumped up against the first single off of Not Your Kind Of People, "Blood For Poppies", another loud guitar-meets-synth track with a rap-like feel that is an intoxicating hybrid of old and new sounds; Nicki Minaj, Blondie, Joan Jett and Madonna were all brought to mind during its live rendition.
Vocalist Shirley Manson offers a strong  pitch-perfect delivery live that touches on a number of dif...
Vocalist Shirley Manson offers a strong, pitch-perfect delivery live that touches on a number of different emotions and states.
Veronica Sinnaeve
Garbage don't wallow in nostalgia so much as liberally mix old and new with equal aplomb. The biting, edgy "Control" (from the new album) lead smoothly into the quiet menace of "#1 Crush," adroitly driven forwards by Vig's near-martial tempo and Erikson's yowling guitar licks. Slinking, sinuous Manson, kitted out in shorts, tights, a metallic belt and mesh tank, with hair tightly pulled into a high bun, struck poses for the upheld cameras and phones (and one notable iPad), celebrating words and sounds with the whirl of lights above and all around her.
The Phoenix was small enough to be able to appreciate the deep theatricality of Manson s presence  a...
The Phoenix was small enough to be able to appreciate the deep theatricality of Manson's presence, a theatricality that has at its core a spine of steel. What with a fairly even male/female ratio of concert attendees, it's obvious the petite Scotswoman's appeal is broad and wide.
Veronica Sinnaeve
So while the musicians in Garbage are all very talented and very able, it was clearly Manson the crowd wanted to see, entranced by this powerful, petite woman, who, live onstage, is snarky, sexy fierce, funny, self-effacing, humble, overwhelmed, grateful -and certainly every inch the diva. Interestingly, she told McCormick recently, that "women in pop have been declawed and defanged, and they’re just meant to look pretty and sing pretty." Certainly she does look pretty, but she's much, much more than that; Manson lives inside the words and all over the music, alternating between victim and tormentor, slave and victor, dark star and bright light, demon lover and nurturing protector. The notes are her guide; the words hold her hand; the beats whisper "keep going." And she does.
Garbage performed the theme song to 1999 film  The World Is Not Enough  during their Toronto tour da...
Garbage performed the theme song to 1999 film "The World Is Not Enough" during their Toronto tour date. Lead singer Shirley Manson told the crowd that although the band had recorded the song in Canada, they'd never performed it in the country before.
Still, the fierce persona slightly wore away during a band malfunction, when she used the stop-gap opportunity to interact with the audience. Asking various members' names and where they hailed from (she received a litany of responses: Montreal, Latvia, Peterborough), the heartfelt smile she flashed when a male admirer shrieked his adoration of her was a beautiful moment of humility and genuine feeling. With power restored, Garbage delivered a blistering version of "I Think I'm Paranoid" and the diva was returned, albeit a more smiling one, blowing kisses and stalking to each end of the stage with ease.
Along with loud  raucous numbers  Garbage performed a variety of slower material  including an ether...
Along with loud, raucous numbers, Garbage performed a variety of slower material, including an etheral version of "Milk", with a clear beautiful vocal line by Shirley Manson. The song's signature plea ("I'm waiting for you...") felt like more of an entreaty, delivered with earnest confidence.
Veronica Sinnaeve
The first set closed with a thunderously joyful version of "Push It", with every set of arms in the Phoenix held aloft and every word shrieked with abandon. It was a loud, proud sing-along that burst with both nostalgia and acceptance of the time passed since concert-goers were first introduced to the band's rock-pop sound. The three-song encore included the first song on Not Your Kind Of People, "Automatic Systematic Habit." Manson was in full fighting form, spitting out the lyrics, "I won't be your dirty little secret!" and berating a lying lover over a heavy mix of driving percussion and yowling guitars. By the show's closer, "Vow", there was no doubt the Garbage was back in a big way. Sometimes everything old can be new again; if it's done as well as Garbage, it's a beautiful thing indeed.