by Jeff Niesel
While the alt-rock group Garbage didn’t exactly qualify as a supergroup when it formed in the early ’90s, the members did bring some serious musical experience to the table. Prior to joining Garbage, singer Shirley Manson had recorded an album as Angelfish and drummer Butch Vig achieved fame for producing Nirvana’s Nevermind. That experience translated into massive album sales and Grammy nominations before the group imploded in 2008.
That experience was again on display last night at House of Blues as the band, which reformed two years ago and issued a new studio album last year, showed its expertise during a thrilling two-hour concert. Led by the 46-year-old Manson, an excellent front person whose performance was unaffected by the fact that she was downing shots of what looked to be whiskey (in celebration of Easter, she said) all night long. She came out dressed in a flowing black scarf but quickly stripped down to a cleavage-exposing black dress that allowed her to move about the stage more freely. And move she did. She swaggered like Mick Jagger on the rocking opening tune “Automatic Systematic Habit” and bobbed and weaved like a rapper on the hard-hitting “Blood for Poppies.”
The anthem “Push It” became a fervent sing-a-long with the crowd; on “Control,” she paced the stage like some kind of caged animal. All the while, the band effortlessly shifted musical gears, slowing things down for the ballad “Why Do You Love Me?” and turning up the synth-pop side of its sound on “#1 Crush.” The set-closing “Beloved Freak,” which found Manson dropping in a few lines from “This Little Light of Mine,” was also delivered as a beautiful ballad and the band rearranged its hit “Only Happy When It Rains” as a bluesy rocker. Not that the show as all sturm und drang. Manson joked about an Easter card she received from her father, whom she said was “super fucking weird,” and she even performed an impromptu bunny song that had her hopping around the stage for a minute, all of which endeared her even more to the capacity crowd.
The three-song encore included the big hit “Stupid Girl,” which featured a reworked introduction, and the haunting “You Look So Fine,” which concluded with a few lines from Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” connecting the band with one of rock's truly great supergroups. Garbage might not be a textbook example of a supergroup but last night's show was still pretty super.