tue 19/11/2019

Garbage, Barrowlands, Glasgow | reviews, news & interviews

Garbage, Barrowlands, Glasgow

Garbage, Barrowlands, Glasgow

A magnificent homecoming for Shirley Manson and her band of American brothers

Long to reign over us: Shirley Manson of Garbage

The Queen made a rare visit to Glasgow yesterday. Now as luck would have it Liz 'n' Philip did too, apparently driving by my office on their way to George Square for afternoon tea and a quick chorus of long-to-reign-over-us (at least until 2014), and in the process lending this opening paragraph a rare note of topicality. However I'd be very surprised if the pair of them received quite so rapturous a welcome, or experienced as many people take an icy command to "bow down to me" so literally, as Shirley Manson on her triumphant return to the Barrowlands.

Such is the fickle nature of pop music that the black-clad boys of Garbage tend to fade into the background in every piece of writing about the band, despite the fact that those "boys" include legendary producer Butch Vig on drums. That said, a first Scottish show in seven years for the band's Edinburgh-born frontwoman meant this was never going to be anything other than a triumphant homecoming for Manson – right from the moment she strutted onto the stage all self-assured sex robot in bright red hot pants and a billowing pink cape.

There is a reason they're still packing venues nearly 20 years after their debut

"I've been playing this stage since I was 15," Manson said at one point, in one of her extended between-song monologues that veered between trip down memory lane and open-air therapy session. For those too hot in the sweat box that was the Barrowlands floor to bother with counting, she meant it had been 30 years since she had first performed on Glasgow's most famous stage, on keyboards and backing vocals with Goodbye Mr Mackenzie. Three decades on, she claimed, she still felt like one of the lucky ones to have a career in the music industry - "especially being a woman, and a Scottish woman at that" – before dedicating the blistering "Special" to her ex-boyfriend and mentor, Mackenzies' frontman Martin Metcalfe.

Performing tracks from new album Not Your Kind of People as part of a setlist including just about everything I sang along to as a teenage girl, on sheer entertainment value alone Garbage proved there is a reason they're still packing venues nearly 20 years after their debut. From the perfectly choreographed blackouts accompanying the unmistakeable "derr derr-derr derr derr-derr" bassline on "Supervixen", to Manson's strutting and pouting and performing "Bad Boyfriend" directly to some heartbreaker lad half her age in the front row, there was little chance of enough of a lull to grab some much-needed rehydration.

Manson's contemporary relevance as frontwoman, inspiration and style icon was just as apparent in the night's opening act as it was in a crowd that had so obviously grown up on Garbage's glamorous, non-conformist 1990s albums. Hayley Mary, fronting Sydney's The Jezabels, owes as much to Manson in terms of swagger and pout as the band's heavy pop and choppy rhythms does to Garbage. The tunes aren't as strong, but that will come in time.

You can call Garbage gloom-rock if you like, but there is no denying that underneath the slick bass and industrial beats the band knows how to pen a melody – everything from breakthrough hit "Stupid Girl" to new album opener "Automatic System Habit" had a chorus 2,000 people would happily belt along to. Not that Manson needed the help – live, "Not Your Kind of People" stands out with a spine-tingling vocal that has forever redeemed the album's weak ballad in my eyes. Performing the beautiful "The Trick Is to Keep Breathing" as an encore, before sending a sweaty crowd into the night with a never-more-true "Only Happy When It Rains", gave the singer another chance to show off an unforgettable voice.

But what really elevated the night beyond even a five-star performance was being able to participate in something so clearly as special for the band as it was for the crowd. "I know you were expecting a rock show, not an evening with Jimmy Shand," Manson said from the stage after greeting another family member she rarely gets to see, but she wasn't really apologising and nor did she have a need to. Raising shot glasses filled with Irn Bru to toast her "band of brothers" for Independence Day, it was obvious that Manson was as happy to be home as we were to have her. Long may she reign.

Watch the video for "Special", a highlight of the night


Underneath the slick bass and industrial beats the band knows how to pen a melody

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article

Comments

Manson going on about how wonderful Scotland is, yet living in California, was both patronising and tiresome. Yes, the world is round Shirley, get over yourself. Stop talking and sing. That's what I pay you to do. As for the snide political dig at royalty by the writer of this article, if Scotland was ever silly enough to become independent, Her Majesty would still be head of state and Queen of Scots. You are obviously out of your depth discussing such weighty matters, so maybe stick to pretty average concert reviews.

Dude, were you actually at this show or do you just like to hear yourself complain?

Strange question...of course I was at the gig. I thought Garbage were excellent, despite Manson's inane drivel. And using the word 'Dude'...my, aren't you so quaint.

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.