Garbage’s illustrious 18 year career has included seven Grammy nominations, multi-platinum certification on three continents, and a motherfucking Bond theme. At 11 years old, I was introduced to Garbage by an older friend who was determined to broaden my musical horizon beyond the likes of Ace of Base and the Spice Girls. His efforts were wildly successful. The deftly layered sound of alternative rock and its subtle electronic elements coupled with Shirley Manson’s seductive vocals proved to be the perfect segue into what had previously been the “scary” world of rock music.
My love affair with Garbage continued intermittently to the present, 14 years later. Unfortunately, the band’s long hiatus meant that they hadn’t played a show in Los Angeles since 2005, so I was unable to fulfill my dream of seeing them live until this year when they announced a tour to support their newest release, Not Your Kind of People. They kicked off that tour earlier this year in Los Angeles with two instant sell-out shows at El Rey Theatre, one of which I was lucky enough to catch. Unfortunately, my camera chose that particular evening to cease functioning. As a compulsive, photo-taking Asian who documents everything in her life, this naturally meant I had to see Garbage again.
My opportunity to see a repeat performance came sooner than I had expected. After returning from a world tour, the band announced another show at The Wiltern, which turned into a show at The Hollywood Palladium after those tickets sold out within hours. By the show date, every single one of those tickets had sold out too. That they’ve garnered a faithful legion of fans goes without saying. Still, I was surprised to find that the people standing front and center at this show had been waiting outside of the venue since 6:00. AM, not PM.
That right there is love.
Once inside the venue, my night kicked off with a solid set from New Jersey punk band Screaming Females. Lead vocalist and guitarist Marissa Paternoster set the tone with her grinding punk riffs, which were complemented by the band’s driving percussion and bass lines. The trio was on point, displaying all the elements of a well-oiled punk machine.
As Garbage’s musical introduction began, the band members took their positions in front of the crowd with lead vocalist Shirley Manson sashaying on stage last to a thunderous roar. They wasted no time, launching immediately into “Automatic System Habit,” a high-energy track off their new album. From there, the familiar opening of “I Think I’m Paranoid” filled The Palladium, which launched the audience into a frenzy that lasted through the next couple tracks before the band slowed the pace down with “Queer.” With her sultry vocals and undulating sway, Shirley Manson cast her hypnotic spell on the audience; this was undoubtedly a set highlight. They moderately picked up the pace from there with “Stupid Girl” before going wild yet again with “Hammering In My Head,” the final lyric of which ends with the line “…in the bullet train from Tokyo to Los Angeles.”
Throughout the set, Shirley Manson addressed the crowd, making frequent use of the word “fuck,” which somehow sounded less offensive in her Scottish accent. She expressed gratitude for both her band and the fans. She vented about the current “fucked up” state of the music industry today and how it led to Garbage’s long hiatus. Occasionally, she endearingly admitted to not knowing where she was going with a tangent. It added a charmingly human element to a set that was positively divine.
Still, Garbage strayed minimally from their main intent: fucking awesome music. They incorporated a beautiful mix of raw, frenetic energy with appropriately timed seductive interludes. The audience was naturally appreciative when Garbage played their hit single “Special” and awed by the velvety “The Trick Is To Keep Breathing,” which just so happens to be one of my two favorite songs in their catalog. The other favorite, “Push It,” got a noticeable amount of love from the crowd as did its follow-up, “Only Happy When It Rains.” The band concluded their first set with “Vow,” ending with a crowd-pleasing, long guitar solo before exiting the stage only to come back with the anthem “I Hate Love.”
One of the more memorable moments in the set came during the encore. Instead of playing “Supervixen” as planned, they asked the audience for their requests. The fan Manson selected damn well near had a heart attack when asked what song she wanted played, but Manson took it in stride telling her to “take deep breaths and get it together.” After playing her request, “Man On A Wire,” the band concluded with the sensual “You Look So Fine.”
As I had caught one of their sets at El Rey not too long ago, I was slightly worried that I wouldn’t be as enthralled with this performance as I had been the first time seeing the band. Garbage deftly squashed my skepticism by the third song of their set. From start to finish, Garbage was marvelous. They artfully captivated the audience with a mix of aggression and sensuality, and I anticipate seeing them many more times to come.
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