Garbage – Concert August 2002

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Concert Review by Mark Bayross

Garbage live at the Electric Ballroom, London – 29 August 2002

Tonight was always going to be special, and not just because it is the last night of the European leg of the Garbage tour. Fresh from playing the Kerrang! Awards, this second of two nights at Camden’s Electric Ballroom was a rare opportunity to see a world-class band up close and personal.

The audience, packed to the hilt as far back as the bar, go nuts from the word go as Shirley and ‘the boys’ arrive onstage (with one-time Smashing Pumpkin Matt Walker on drums in the place of the stricken Butch Vig) and launch into SUPERVIXEN. What follows is a greatest hits set of killer tune after killer tune, with a re-red-haired Manson stalking the stage and the whole band feeding off the audience reaction and loving every minute.

PUSH IT and new single SHUT YOUR MOUTH ratchet up the intensity before the slow-burning MILK brings it down and heralds a string of classics from the band’s self-titled debut album, taking in AS HEAVEN IS WIDE (the first time they’ve played the song live in seven years, bar last night’s show), STUPID GIRL and ONLY HAPPY WHEN IT RAINS.

The crowd bounce along in a state of giddy sing-a-long euphoria, guitarists Steve Marker and Clapton-lookalike Duke Erikson wrestle with keyboards and swap axe solos and Shirley banters with the band, waxes lyrical about being able to see the faces of the audience for a change, dedicates a song to her attendant sister and fesses up to miming on Top Of The Pops for the first time earlier in the day.

…And still they have hits in reserve – SPECIAL, WHEN I GROW UP, CHERRY LIPS and I THINK I’M PARANOID are all rapturously received and the fact that they play very little from BEAUTIFULGARBAGE hardly seems to matter. They encore with a couple of B-sides (including their live fave GIRL DON’T COME) before closing with the most requested song of the evening, the still-awesome-sounding VOW.

I guess after all this time, Garbage really should be as polished and solid live as they are today, but Shirley Manson, who, whether she likes it or not, has become something of a cultural icon, has an air of unpredictability that still gives every performance an edge. Her charisma easily allows her to suppress the mock boos after the miming admission by sharing an anecdote with hundreds of strangers as if we were all her mates.

A few holes in the set list (no QUEER, ANDROGYNY or BREAKING UP THE GIRL) were more than compensated for by the inclusion of a couple of rarely played songs, the exhilarating atmosphere and the fact that we lucky few were able to get so close to a band who normally fill an aircraft hangar.

Special indeed.