Garbage at Mill City Nights, 4/5/2013

Garbage at Mill City Nights, 4/5/2013
Photo by Youa Vang

Garbage with IO Echo
Mill City Nights, Minneapolis
Friday, April 5, 2013

Forget "Throwback Thursday," it was "Throwback Friday" at Mill City Nights for Garbage's sold-out show in Minneapolis. Collectively dressed in black, Garbage took the stage following an announcement reminding the audience on the upper level to not hang their drinks over the edge -- lest they drop them onto the band and ruin the show for everyone.

Duke Erikson and Steve Marker got ready while Shirley Manson, Eric Avery -- filling in as their touring bass player -- and Butch Vig bumped fists to prep for their almost two-hour set. Anticipation was high, and so were emotions as the band had not been to to the Twin Cities in quite some time.

Garbage at Mill City Nights, 4/5/2013
Photo by Youa Vang

With her hair pulled into a high bun perfect for headbanging, Shirley skipped any introductions and launched right into the electronically charged "Automatic Systematic Habit." The rest of the band also have aged well, looking like the typical rockers who survived the '90s, but it's almost as if Manson has been stuck in a time capsule with her flawless skin and beauty. The lead singer's voice is so vibrant that you don't realize she carries all of the vocals with no backup. She made her prowling of the stage look as natural as a cheetah stalking its kill, pointing out into the audience with her fluorescent painted fingernails and demanding everyone's attention.

Garbage were always much darker in their lyrics and their sound than their alt-rock counterparts. "Paranoid" from Version 2.0 was a deviation from the sound of their self-titled debut album, and it proved to be successful for the band. Further evidence of that darkness comes from "Control." The piece opens with Shirley's quiet, controlled voice and builds to a driving full-band declaration about letting guards down and truths coming out due to loss of control. The opening riffs of "Why Do You Love Me" sound so familiar that they could almost fill in for the opening lines of Soundgarden's "Spoonman."

With a crowd full of hard-core Garbage fans, there was much cheering as soon as the first notes of "Queer" were dropped. Slow as it is already, they band changed the tempo and came up with an updated version of the classic '90s song.

While in her zone, Shirley doesn't fall to too much stage banter, but when she gets to chatting, she goes off on tangents -- or digressions, as she charmingly puts it. Taking a break, she said to the audience, "Good evening, Minneapolis. Thank you for joining us this evening. Have you had a good life since we last saw you?" Noticing some girls in the front row being pushed around, she asked the men around them to take a step back, saying, "I'm the same way. I don't like strange men bumping up beside me, invading my space. It's a female thing. I wouldn't expect you to understand. It would just be me looking at you with frosty eyes"; when a gentleman shouted at her that it's her job to look at people with frosty eyes, she laughingly accepted.

Introducing "#1 Crush" with "This is not a love song," Shirley charged into the disturbing song about obsessive love that makes you never want to go on any blind dates ever again. Back to her digressions again, she told the story of the group's first show in Minneapolis and their 17th anniversary as a band. "We were so nervous, and we were so unprepared. We drove to the venue [7th St. Entry] saying, 'We can't fuck this up.' We drove up to the venue, and there was a huge line out the door which we thought was for us." It turned out to be for the artist playing the Mainroom next door, and Shirley charismatically -- and using the term incorrectly -- called it "jumping the shark." She had to confer with Duke knowing she used it wrong, but continued on expressing her gratitude with, "Unlike a lot of bands from the '90s, our fans have allowed us to experiment -- we've been listening to a lot of Missy Elliott and Justin Timberlake -- but I digress again. Our record took a strange detour and got panned universally, but we love it." This segued into the saddest song that the band has ever put out, "Cup of Coffee."

Garbage at Mill City Nights, 4/5/2013
Garbage at Mill City Nights, 4/5/2013
Garbage at Mill City Nights, 4/5/2013
Photos by Youa Vang

As the bright guitars of "Special" peeled back to reveal the most optimistic song about a breakup, the audience was just settling in for the show, allowing for deeper cuts like "Cherry Lips" and "The Trick Is to Keep Breathing." With much of grunge music coming out of the Seattle scene where the sun is rarely seen, many of the hit songs from that era were tinged with depression, and Garbage's "Only Happy When It Rains" is the quintessential song from that generation. Every line, every lyric screams '90s music.

Saving their big hit "Stupid Girl" for the encore, Garbage reminded everyone of why they loved music before they got big, before the pressure of being rock stars and working with labels made them cynical and leave music for an extended hiatus. When they got past their cynicism, they came back wanting it to be about the music again, and Shirley told the crowd, "We're gonna leave you on this note," with "You Look So Fine" -- and weaving in a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" -- and the ever-hopeful borrowed lyrics "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine."    

Critic's bias: I'm impressed with how Garbage's songs have held up over the years.

The crowd: Garbage fans ranging in age, but most of them in their 40s.

Overheard in the crowd: "I wanted to be Shirley Manson when I was a girl."

Random notebook dump: I haven't heard "When I Grow Up" in over 10 years. I never knew what I was saying when I was naively singing the lyrics "golden showers" as a teenager.

Random notebook dump 2: Being a woman in the music industry -- or any industry where your worth is based on your looks -- must be tough. If you age well, you are praised for them, but if you do not, that may be all that people talk about, even if you are still making quality music. This is a conundrum that has been with us for as long as the history of music, but with the rise of strong women in the music industry, it's slowly changing -- hopefully.


Automatic Systematic Habit
I Think I'm Paranoid
Blood for Poppies
Hammering in My Head
Why Do You Love Me
#1 Crush
Battle in Me
Cup of Coffee
Cherry Lips
As Heaven Is Wide
The Trick Is to Keep Breathing
When I Grow Up
Only Happy When It Rains
Beloved Freak

Push It
Stupid Girl
You Look So Fine

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