Butch Vig became a producing superstar when Nirvana’s second album, Nevermind, knocked Michael Jackson from the top of the charts and went on to capture the zeitgeist of the early ’90s. But he wasn’t just interested producing music. Vig (drums) also wanted to play it. And to that end, he teamed up with fellow producers and multi-instrumentalists Duke Erikson (bass) and Steve Marker (guitar) to form Garbage, even before they added Scottish singer Shirley Manson to the mix. The band entered the mainstream with the 1995 release of a self-titled album, with hits like “Stupid Girl” and “Only Happy When It Rains.” The quartet steadily released more music (another three LPs) and toured through 2005, and then following an 18-month hiatus, returned to play a benefit show in early 2007. But it took another three years or so for Garbage (above, playing “Stupid Girl” for KROQ FM) to return to the studio to work on Not Your Kind of People (stream it below), which finally came out last May. The band is now out on the road, and you can see them play The Wellmont Theatre tomorrow night.
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Garbage – Webster Hall – May 22, 2012
Garbage kicked off a tour in support of Not Your Kind of People, their first album in seven years, with a sold-out show at Webster Hall last night. The band, comprised of all the original members from their mid-’90s roots (Shirley Manson, Steve Marker, Duke Erikson and Butch Vig, plus touring bassist Eric Avery), set the energetic tone with an immediate onslaught of songs, beginning with new number “Automatic Systematic Habit,” followed by a string of older material—“Temptation Waits,” “Shut Your Mouth,” “Queer,” “Metal Heart” and one of the bands’ big hits, “Stupid Girl.”
With bits and pieces of aggressive punk rock, fuzzy shoegaze, frenetic, skittering electronica and even hints of down-tempo trip-hop, the band’s music managed to be catchy while maintaining a cool, disaffected edge, thanks in part to frontwoman Manson’s solemn, intense delivery. As she sang, Manson stared down the crowd with a gaze as smoldering as the fiery red hair she wore in two Princess Leia cones atop her head, and even when not singing, Manson was just as commanding: deliberately pacing the stage, circling her microphone stand like an eagle honing in on its prey and then pouncing at just the right moment to deliver another verse. When the band finally took a short pause, the crowd erupted with a lengthy round of applause. “Wow,” exclaimed Manson, “I guess it’s a stupid question, but … have you missed me?”
To say those in attendance had missed Manson and the band was certainly an understatement, and last night’s performance served as a reminder that the group’s unique style and sound have gone unmatched in the musical scene during their hiatus. As an additional treat, Garbage didn’t shy away from back-catalog hits, performing renditions of “I Think I’m Paranoid,” “#1 Crush,” “Push It” and “Only Happy When It Rains,” which Manson and Co. milked for full dramatic effect, starting off at half-speed, before creating a slow, dramatic build that kicked into gear as Manson crooned the iconic line, “Pour your misery down on me,” echoed twofold by the enthusiastic voices singing along in the crowd. Although Garbage has been missed, last night was a warm welcome back. —Alena Kastin