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Gig review

Garbage

So it’s the monsoon season, early July to be precise, and in between biblical amounts of rain, Betty traipses to the Barras.

Garbage have some history with Scotland, as is made clear tonight via more that several pronouncements and monologues by Shirley Manson – more of which later. Betty does not intend to go through too much backstory here but suffice to say that Garbage are a very successful (17m albums sold worldwide) post-grunge, mainstream but alt.rock act spawned in America in the 90s but with the added key ingredient of a Scottish born and raised lead singer and lyricist. Escaping the ashes of Betty favourites (and elsewhere featured) Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, Manson was talent spotted by former Nirvana producer Butch Vig for an initially studio-based project, the self-titled album going global in many “territories” around 1995.

Garbage also hit the headlines back in 1999(?) when they played the gig in Auld Reekie to celebrate the Scottish Parliament opening, Shirley’s “who’d have thunk it” quote being played over and over as some kind of history in the making; perhaps it was…

This tour is promoting their fifth album and first album in seven years, Not Your Kind of People, an alleged return to form, although it supplies a minority of the material tonight, most of the output being culled from the debut and the next two (Version 2.0 to my mind is still the best of the recorded output while Beautiful Garbage has its moments as well, as does Bleed Like Me).

The usual Shirley/Butch/Duke/Steve lineup was supplemented by long term American bassist for hire Eric Avery – most recently serving a stint with Jane’s Addiction, he kept up the strong backline.

Opening number ‘Supervixen’ saw Shirley Manson strutting the stage and getting a bit caught up in her voluminous cardy/cape thing, at one point it looked like it was going to suffocate her, quite funny in fact.

Timing has a lot to do with the Garbage schtick, and this song illustrates it perfectly, the stop/start dynamic of the guitars and vocals is arresting, although not as loud as it could be, health and safety compliance possibly more on the case than, for example the MBV gig here a few years ago…

Talking of compliance, the most care that Betty has seen in a few years at the Barras was lavished on Butch Vig’s drumkit, yes he may have produced Nevermind but the drapes only came off just after the band came on and the thing had plexiglass all around it, presumably scared that some rogue pint would penetrate it – well, perhaps in the past Butch but in 2012 we are all a little poorer and Tennents is £3.80 a pint; didn’t see a single one hurled so the DIY defences were a bit of a waste of time…

So yes it was a bit of a homecoming event for Shirley, sorry did she give just a bit of a hint of that. Apart from the amassing of half the population of the Lothians with guest passes in the foyer (well that bit at the top of the stairs anyway), from 14 to 80 of the Manson Klan, but fair play to them, good night oot and all that…

The several speeches given were emotional, heartfelt but sometimes just a little too, well, Californian, sorry Shirley but sometimes you just need to stick to the singing, you do it very well, but I did get some dodgy Sheena Easton flashbacks a couple of times.

The music though in the main was great – a romp through their best moments, the new songs sounded as good as the back catalogue, a lot of banter with the audience and definitely the sweatiest gig I’ve witnessed for some time.

New songs like ‘Automatic Systematic Habit’ again gave Shirley the chance to berate unfortunate (but probably deserving) male targets for their hypocrisy and general shitness – “I’ll not be your dirty little secret” indeed, the scathing lyrics coupled with hotheadedness and sheer blinding sarcasm are still there, all these years after ‘Stupid Girl’ and ‘Vow’, both given alternately sleazy and hammering outings tonight.

Shirley was very intense, a magnetic presence on stage, going to the side twice in the middle of songs to shake hands with people on the left near the bar area, goading the audience about “Manchester last night was louder”, shout-outs to Janice Galloway, her dad, young nieces, her aunties, former GMM foil and ITM featuree Martin Metcalfe (according to the press, though Betty missed this), pretty much all her relatives got a mention plus “hardcore” fans and a “cute” guy in the front row. Resplendent in a skimpy top (after the cardie came off), tight short bum-skimming shorts and lyra leggings, the choice of footwear was interesting, towering heels for the first half, then they came off for some low-slung boots in the second – sensible girl Shirley, have been there myself, the bunions can be murder…

The encore ended, just before the 11pm curfew, with the inevitable ‘Only Happy When it Rains’, and over the piece you are reminded just how many damn good songs they have done over the years, they certainly did not disappoint.

Really hope they are not strangers to the Scottish stage for so long next time, and with T in the Park looming Betty is cast back to the only other Garbage live experience she’d had, in the teeming rain around 11 or 12 years ago – keep it coming…

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Photos courtesy of Martin Gray