Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

A mutual love-in revitalises Garbage's debut in Manchester

20 November 2015, 10:00 | Written by Joe Goggins

“We just wanna be treated like normal people, right?”

Shirley Manson is in talkative mood tonight (Manchester Academy, 13th November), and the crowd lap it up. At that specific point, she’s running us through some anecdotal evidence of the unrelenting sexism she’s faced over the course of three decades in the music industry. The ostracisation and alienation ring true with the audience, and not just with those lacking a Y chromosome. Garbage have endured like they have because of a fiercely loyal fanbase that relate to Manson’s lyrics, laced with equal parts empowerment and vulnerability.

It’s why tonight’s show, and this tour - billed as ’20 Years Queer’ - feel a little bit different from the standard nineties nostalgia trips that are increasing in prominence on the gig guides of these types of venue. Sure, the band are playing their self-titled debut in full tonight, to mark its twentieth anniversary, but when they drop the song from which this run of dates has taken its name, Manson’s words about it in an interview ring true; “Queer” is not just about the LGBT community that’s taken the track to its heart. It’s for anyone who’s ever felt like, or been branded, a weirdo.

It’s for that reason - because of that synergy between the band and the fans - that a gig that might otherwise seem self-indulgent instead feels like a real event. Manson chats constantly between songs, to the point that casual observers might begin to feel their patience tested no matter how dry her sense of humour (very). If the reaction to the numerous deep cuts and B-sides littered throughout the setlist is anything to go by, though, there aren’t many neutrals in the house. The likes of “Girl Don’t Come” and the pulsating “Driving Lesson” go over almost as well as the classic singles they backed - “Only Happy When It Rains” and “Stupid Girl” respectively, since you asked - and the Garbage tracks themselves, to the group’s credit, by and large sound taut and vital; given that some of the studio versions sound very much of their time, that’s no small feat.

If there’s any lag over the course of a set than runs past two hours, it’s down to the off-kilter sprinkling of newer material - “Automatic Systemic Habit”, from 2012’s comeback album Not Your Kind of People, falls flat, and post Garbage essentials like “The Trick Is to Keep Breathing” are conspicuous by their absence. This largely hardcore crowd doesn’t seem to care, though. They’re here for a record they love, and for a band that has long inspired them with their aggressive nonchalance. “Oh yeah! The first time I was finger-fucked was to this song,” says Manson before a cover of The Jam’s “The Butterfly Collector”, as casually as if she was letting us know what she’d had for her tea. She’s a character, and just as well - she fronts a band with plenty of it.

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