Garbage rocks Chicago

After three songs Monday at the Vic Theatre, Garbage singer Shirley Manson slipped off her stylish stiletto-heeled boots and replaced them with a pair of shin-high, lace-up gym shoes.

The photographers had gone, and now it was time for Manson and her band to get down to business. This would not be a performance suited to mincing around in high-heels. Instead, the porcelain-skinned Scottish native preferred to dodge and jab like a boxer. This was sugar and spice mixed with a whole lot of not-so-nice. Or, if you prefer, a singer and a band that was all about floating like a butterfly, but stinging like a bee. If not quite a match in the ring for Muhammad Ali, Manson certainly had the dexterity and demeanor of the ex-heavyweight champion's pugilistic daughter, Leila Ali.

Manson was the focal point, but--make no mistake--Garbage is a band. Though their songs are dressed up with buzzing rhythm loops and an armada of effects, the melodies are pop-perfect and the arrangements all sinew and muscle. Duke Erikson (the bearded professor) specialized in melodic fills while Steve Marker (the shaven-headed pro wrestler) brought the noise, though sometimes they switched roles. They're two of rock's more underrated guitarists: every note complemented the song, their counterpoint riffs built tension and their terse four-bar solos were little melodies in themselves. But Garbage isn't particularly flexible; their tightly structured songs didn't allow for much variation. This minor shortcoming was perhaps exacerbated by the absence of drummer Butch Vig, who suffered a death in his family. His replacement, Matt Walker, provided workmanlike support, and the band slammed out the songs with energy and efficiency.

It was up to Manson to provide the spontaneity, and she was more than up to the task. Tough but tantalizing, she sang about seduction, resilience and self-empowerment without sounding like a scold. She acknowledged the allure of a "Bad Boyfriend" even as she mocked the "Stupid Girl" who succumbs to deceit. She sang in a strident alto, spiced with hip-hop cadences in "Shut Your Mouth" and "Push It," where she referenced the Salt-N-Pepa hip-hop classic of the same name. Best of all were the band's latest songs, especially the hymn-like "Happy Home," with Marker's seesaw riff underlining the uneasiness in the lyric. Even better was "Bleed Like Me," which opened with Manson singing against Marker's acoustic guitar and then slowly escalated into an anthem. It's a rare band that makes its best album on its fourth try, but Manson and company weren't resting on that accomplishment. After all, the singer had her boxing shoes on.


Privacy Policy
. .