Garbage - Manchester Academy 1

Shirley Manson is on a high. “Oh, Manchester,” she beams. “I don’t want tonight to end.” Garbage return after a seven years hiatus, the title of comeback album Not Your Kind of People offering a polite two fingers to this not so brave new world.

With major labels making derisory offers, Garbage released their new album themselves. Tonight bears witness to Manson’s avowed intent to only carry on if people like what they’re doing. That seems to include the band themselves: drummer and producer Butch Vig could surely do without the day job getting in the way of his real work. Right? Unless he’s doing it for what…fun?

A near capacity audience reminds you it’s over a decade since Garbage’s mix of traditional rock shapes and electro-pop smarts saw them pitch up in arenas and at the top of festival bills rather than a 2,000 capacity student union hall. But they return to a world where the price of a gig ticket now impacts on whether you eat that week (if the daily gloom dispatches are to be believed).

This many people stumping up the best part of £30? Garbage, clearly. They got the love. Manson slinks out fists aloft and to a roar. For a band who, despite mainstream success, always seemed to operate on the periphery of the alternative scene, it’s an eyebrow-raiser. Were Garbage not the band most people thought merely okay, an indie The Beautiful South, record sales as proportional representation? Evidence suggests otherwise. No wonder they look reluctant to leave the stage. Note: half the crowd is forty-plus but a mix of students and youths make up the rest. Loyalty is one thing but have Garbage’s goth-lite leanings allowed them to sneak a foot into a teen scene that missed them first time around?

An opening one-two of ‘Supervixen’ and ‘I Think I’m Paranoid’ shows they’re not precious with the good stuff. The sound is immense – programmed beats, Vig’s industrial wallop and Duke Erickson and Steve Marker’s jackhammer riffery. Manson sounds good, too. She was always more of a Front Woman than a warbler, more about tone than showy range, but she’s impressive tonight. Now 45, she’s a reminder that you can make it as a woman in this business without being a tart and without being a bore. Smart as fuck and twice as gobby, you can’t help thinking a few more Shirley Manson’s wouldn’t go amiss.

She’s in good form, getting the crowd onside by telling them “It’s always better up north” and waxing lyrical about the Stone Roses. She berates her band mates for not being funnier. And even with your Rock Star Bullshit Detector set high, her pithy asides and lengthy thank you’s ring true.

She’s right to be chuffed. For once, the crowd is involved all the way to the back and engaged throughout. Even a mid-set drift into new stuff and non-hits (early b-side drone ‘#1 Crush’ goes down a storm) doesn’t deflate the event. If the new songs are cut from the standard template, at least, as ever, they’re assembled with an eye for a tune. But it’s the hits that detonate and they come in droves. After the late 90s commercial high of second album Version 2.0, Garbage seemed to get a little bit chewed up by the expanding scene but they still knew their way around a hook. A blistering ‘Go Baby Go’ is testament to that, as are a couple of new tracks, not least the stomp of ‘Systematic Automatic Habit’. But the temperature rises when they break out the biggies: ‘Stupid Girl’, ‘Special’, a blinding ‘Vow’. The latter sparks delirium in the sweat-soaked pit. ‘Push It’ sends us sprawling. ‘The Trick Is To Keep Breathing’ is hushed noir balladry and welcome respite. A closing ‘Only Happy When it Rains’ puts us on the mat and they’re gone.

Is it really nearly 20 years since ‘Vow’ announced their arrival, a 7” vision in glorious aluminium? Good on ‘em. Manson is the baby of the band but they still play with youthful abandon. Out front, old and young share sweat, age an irrelevance. Team TMF, bridging the generations, displays the “loyalty and love” for which Manson tweets post-gig thanks. Our own Mike Hughes is on the front row with his daughter. Mike Gray, snapping in the pit, “can’t wait” for tonight. And Sophie Colletta, barely in her twenties, offers stark summary of Manson’s enduring appeal: “Extremely jealous. Had a crush on that woman since I was 6”.

Last updated: 31/05/2018 21:27:25

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Category Live Review

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