Garbage Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON, October 26
Published Oct 27, 2015When alt-rock survivors Garbage announced they'd be touring to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their self-titled debut album, they acknowledged the reason was because of "a 20-year-long affair between us and those who have loved us." Judging by the very limited space to move inside the Phoenix, it was pretty clear that their long-time fans wanted to show their love in return.
At a time when alternative music was thriving in the major label system and CDs were the main format, that album sold four million copies and spawned four hit singles. For their "20 Years Queer" tour, Garbage were very much about giving fans a nostalgia trip, beginning with a video pack of clips dating back to 1995, when people were first going online and OJ Simpson stood trial.
Walking out on stage, they launched right into "Supervixen" and "Queer." When singer Shirley Manson — sporting hair as pink as the feathers on the album cover — finally spoke, she immediately charmed the room by calling the crowd "magnificent beasts" and acknowledging Toronto as one of her favourite cities (something she also tweeted earlier in the day). Admitting they nearly didn't do the tour because they're currently working on a sixth studio album, Manson said their goal was to "only play songs from 1995 to 1996." This meant interspersing the album cuts with B-sides they didn't seem to think anyone knew, including their cover of the Jam's "Butterfly Collector," "Subhuman" and "#1 Crush," arguably one of their most popular songs thanks to the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack.
Unlike a lot of bands that come back 20 years later, Garbage's age didn't really show. Manson is still as slinky and sensual as she was in her 20s, delivering "Vow" with the sass and menace such a fuck you song deserves. Introducing "A Stroke of Luck" as "the only love song," she made it count before slowly introducing "Only Happy When It Rains" with a rejigged opening. They made similar adjustments to "Stupid Girl," adding undulating synths that made it sound like a DFA remix. This kind of rejuvenation for a 20-year-old song was a nice touch, though it was hard to fully appreciate it with Duke Erikson's guitars piercing the ears when it rang out.
For the encore they came out and performed Vic Chesnutt's "Kick My Ass," in which Manson reflected on a tour she did with the late singer-songwriter back when she fronted lost '90s band Angelfish. Then, after "Trip My Wire," Garbage broke their word by playing two songs from another era: "Automatic Systematic Habit" from 2012's Not Your Kind Of People and Version 2.0's "Push It" to close. Only stickler journalist types seemed to notice, and at the end of the night, everyone seemed pretty satisfied to have gone back and revisited all of Garbage's music from what was arguably their finest period.