In one of many interviews confirming the recording and touring reunion of Garbage, Shirley Manson made a comment to the effect of, “Why am I retired if people don’t know how to put on a good rock show?” Shirley and the boys promised to deliver a proper rock experience on this tour and Monday night at The Phoenix, they certainly did not disappoint.
In a stroke of brilliance that makes me wish other artists would think of it, the night opened with magician James Alan, who took the crowd on a raucous spree of snark and sly card tricks, rocking the finale where a procured twenty dollar bill from an audience member disappeared, only to reappear in a cantaloupe cut open on stage. Hope the bartenders enjoyed the scented cash! As much as I love discovering new artists, major labels frequently pair artists with openers that make no logical sense for the audience at hand, meaning it’s a true 50-50 shot for enjoying them. An awesome magician though? Always welcome!
As for Garbage, they roared onto the stage with classic track “Supervixen” and one-two punched with “Temptation Waits”. In fine form, Shirley prowled the stage, teased the crowd and danced her heart out through a primarily up-tempo set of hits. New tracks from Not Your Kind Of People translated beautifully to their live incarnations, and one could tell how delighted and appreciative the band was by the crowd singing along to each and every song. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of singing at shows (I’ve paid to hear the pros) but Garbage cranked their volume up, creating a harmonic state of sonic joy. Hell, I sang right along too. After fourteen years since my one and only prior Garbage experience, I deserved to join the bouncing, swaying, singing masses. Best of all: the audience took to singing the background layers of the main line Shirley was belting out (from the “falling star” outro of “Supervixen” to the “pour your misery down on me” outro of mega-hit “Only Happy When It Rains”).
If Garbage worried they’d been forgotten, I hope this depth of lyrical knowledge reassured them. Throughout the show, the audience was told how loud they were on the monitors, so I take it we were heard.
In terms of setlist choices, Garbage has made wise decisions for this reunion. The set is decidedly slanted towards their self-titled debut and Version 2.0, their bigger albums, with fan favourites from BeautifulGarbage and Bleed Like Me in the mix. To my delight, all of my top tracks from Not Your Kind Of People made the Toronto setlist, making the night damn near close to perfection (swap “Milk” for “Medication”). Movie soundtrack treats “#1 Crush” and “The World Is Not Enough” (recorded, per Shirley, on Canadian soil) also made the list. Given the intense heat in the packed club (I’m pretty sure the show was sold beyond capacity, because I’ve never felt that crammed in a sold-out gig at that venue), I’m surprised Shirley managed to rock out to the very end without collapse.
What made the show truly memorable, however, was the humble love for the “darklings” that shone through in each and every exchange of banter between the band and the audience. From Shirley’s enthusiastic thank yous to band confessions of what made them freaks in high school (Butch’s honest answer: “I smoked a lot of weed”), to the humorous handling of monitor crash during “I Think I’m Paranoid” (Shirley mimicked an answering service, advising us to hold the line and someone would be with us shortly, before commenting that we’d love them anyway to roaring applause), there was no sense of being taken for granted as fans, no entitlement to our undivided attention. It was a grand house party, and we were all invited to hang out with a grateful group of musicians ready to jam until they dropped or the cops showed up at the door.
Garbage is truly back. Here’s hoping they stick around to school the masses for years to come.
Not Your Kind Of People is brilliant; check my review and then go buy it!
Setlist: Garbage @ The Phoenix, May 28/12
Shut Your Mouth
Why Do You Love Me
Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)
Blood for Poppies
Man On a Wire
I Think I’m Paranoid (restarted after monitor issues)
Only Happy When It Rains
Automatic Systematic Habit
The World Is Not Enough