Concert Review: Garbage (May 9, 2002, Chicago, IL)

At the Garbage concert at the Riviera, it was Butch Vig who was the last to leave after the band’s first set and its encore.

A drummer of a rock band does not usually garner the most praise from its audience, but instead saunters off, typically unnoticed after hiding behind a burl of drums. But at the Garbage concert at the Riviera, it was Butch Vig who was the last to leave after the band’s first set and its encore.

Fans of the Madison, Wis., quintet do not accept Vig as the underdog musician acceptable as background fodder, although his quiet way is just as treasured behind the scenes and in the studio as on stage. They dig the industrial rock grooves that Garbage has created, but also appreciate that it was Vig’s producing talents that spurred some of alternative rock’s finest albums, including Nirvana’s Nevermind and Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream.

The crowd also acknowledged that it’s good to have him healthy again — he reported having been diagnosed with Hepatitis A from food poisoning and was replaced by Matt Chamberlain during the band’s European tour. Last time around, Garbage opened for U2 for two nights, and Manson mused how Vig’s illness and Duke Erickson’s guitar glitches left a little to be desired. “We’ve got something to prove to Chicago,” said Manson, who fronts the quintet as more of a bad-ass with her leather boots and punk blond coif, despite her pixie frame.

Though Vig carries the legacy and Manson steals the show with her sauciness, each member of Garbage contributes to the band’s output. Steve Marker and Erickson seesaw guitar hooks to complement each other, taking turns in the lead. In songs such as “Paranoid,” those riffs snarl. In newer songs such as “Parade,” their guitars wind and reel. A sense of rejuvenation is infused in the song live, compared to the somewhat misfire track captured on CD. Daniel Schulman, who has supported the band’s tours since the beginning, adequately filled in on bass.

The band pulled from each of their three albums, but turned up the volume on each one, making some songs nearly unrecognizable in the throbbing-bass mix — sometimes not so ear-friendly. Though “Stupid Girl” and “Only Happy When It Rains” are the band’s crossover hits — and each one was roused by the stampede sound — it was refreshing to hear “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)” as a sing-along anthem about boys who wear hot pants and “make the whole world want to dance.” The song appropriates a ’50s-like harmony, with new wave pop and an early Ministry-like mix.

It seemed a little bewildering that they passed up “Breaking Up the Girl” and “Androgyny,” two singles from their latest, “Beautifulgarbage.” Or even passed on the fiery “Untouchable” for “ Til The Day That I Die,” which mirrors the older “Not My Idea” in its beat-for-lyric repetition, which they played back to back. Nothing better expressed Manson’s tough-punk banter than “Shut Your Mouth.” The band also gleaned from its ballads for its softer side — notably “Milk” — but fared best with “Hammering in My Head,” which dripped with Manson’s overtly sexual delivery, a fast-pinch industrial beat, and a fiery bass line.

Written by Gala M. Pierce.

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