‘90s alt band Garbage plays Fox Theater, definitely not garbage

Skylar De Paul/Staff

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The alternative ‘90s icon Garbage was anything but at the Fox Theater last week. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of its sophomore album, Version 2.0, the Scottish-American band showed that powerhouse female rockers are still around and don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.

Lead singer Shirley Manson wore an elaborate outfit of metallic gleam and vampiress stage makeup. A red block was painted across the band of her eyes, almost emulating a clown, but more grungy badass than a mere Pennywise.

Audience members were welcomed by Manson’s stage hospitality and humility — she seemed more than comfortable talking to the crowd about what was important to her. And while the singer’s deep Scottish accent stood out when she spoke to the crowd, it was completely unnoticeable when she sang.  

Manson introduced “Soldier Through This” by saying, “I just like to keep everyone on their toes,” as she claimed it’s the saddest song the band has ever written. The vocals — dark and emotional — seemed hard to power through for the vocalist, only intensifying the meaning of the song.

In a roller coaster of notes, “Control” led Manson to belt her lyrics to the crowd — her vocals came out smooth and strong and paired well with the solid drumming from percussionist Butch Vig, who stayed impressively consistent and forceful.

Manson ruled with her commandeering stage presence, reaching for every inch of the crowd with her outstretched arms and showcasing her classic femme-rock dancing. The electric lighting onstage outlined the band in glowing tubes, reflecting off the shine of Manson’s dress and bringing an otherworldly scene before the audience.

The band, which announced that it’s in the process of writing a new record, transitioned between songs with eerie recorded interludes of people laughing and talking — almost as if the whole concert followed a clandestine narrative.

A voice saying “Take a stress pill and think things over” cleverly led into the start of the song “Medication.” The song highlighted Manson’s wide vocal range — her emotive rasp connecting her to the passion of the song. At the peak of the song, she reached out into the crowd and belted to the front row.

The instrumentalists stood out throughout the concert as well, each member demonstrating their own style, all of which fused together to make an alluringly cohesive sound. Bassist Duke Erikson was prominent with his strong bass lines — lines that aren’t always noticeable in live shows. Both Erikson and guitarist Steve Marker alternated their time between strings and keyboards, showing just how musically diverse the band is.

The crowd favorite “Push It” spurred lots of outstretched, bouncing hands from the energized audience, but the viewers weren’t the only ones invigorated by this upbeat song. The instrumentalists of the band were seen jumping all around and running back and forth toward the monitors at the front of the stage.

The nostalgic sounds of a 2007 “Rock Band” session came out with “I Think I’m Paranoid,” which was featured on the popular video game. The crowd sang the lyrics back with as much conviction as Manson, who spent her time rolling around the floor to the iconic guitar lines. The powerful, reverb-ridden guitar line bounced around the walls of the venue, intensifying the theatrical performance.

Then the group took a moment to talk about its support for and from the LGBTQ+ community and the members’ deep gratitude for the community’s persistence and loyalty. “I never quite fit in,” Manson said. “That is, in my view, a fantastic thing — to march to the beat of your own drum.”  

“The World Is Not Enough” slowed down the tempo of the show as Manson’s voice took on a low rumble and the lights went red. The strong vocals broke through the crowd, as Manson literally shook to the vibrato of her voice.

The show ended in a rainbow-prismed vortex to the sounds of “Watch My Temper,” where the keyboard was heavy and Erikson had an Elton John-esque cool-boy vibe.

In all, the show exuded the power and punchiness expected from Manson’s presence in any room. Garbage may be well past its 20th year as a band, but its members are still reigning as the grunge voice for a generation.

Skylar De Paul covers music. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the bassist during the show was Duke Erikson. In fact, it was Eric Avery.