Garbage Live – Shirley Manson Forgets Knickers As The Post-Grunge Band Celebrate 20th Anniversary Of Debut Album

O2 Academy Brixton, London
November 8, 2015

Tonight is the first date of the UK leg of Garbage’s current tour, celebrating the 20th anniversary of their self-titled debut album. Over the past two decades, they’ve released five other albums, been nominated for Grammys, BRITs and countless other awards, and trekked all around the world. All that and Shirley Manson still can’t remember to put on her knickers before a show. “Can somebody run and get me some underpants please?” the frontwoman giggles into her mic just two songs into the set. “I’m being serious!”

With a crew member dispatched to the dressing room to save Shirley’s modesty, the pink-haired singer puts her head in her hands and laughs. “I can feel my band going ‘Oh for fuck’s sake’,” she sighs, before explaining: “My family are here tonight and I got distracted and forgot to put on my underpants.” Minutes later, she runs off stage, quickly returning with her skirt lifted to prove her outfit is now complete. “I promise the rest of the show will be more professional!” she says, before getting things back under way with a mesmeric ‘Queer’.


Later, Manson addresses the years that have passed since the band’s debut was released, telling the audience that she, drummer Butch Vig, guitarist Steve Marker and bassist Duke Erikson have all changed as people since that time. That’s as may be, but as a band their power hasn’t waned – tonight they’re as inspirational as ever.

Where some bands’ songs only have short shelf-lives, those that make up ‘Garbage’ haven’t dated a day. ‘Supervixen’ is as charged as on record, Marker’s bowing guitar lines building great arcs beneath Manson’s vocals. ‘Fix Me Now’ bursts with pop brilliance, the frontwoman skipping around the stage as the chorus emerges like the sun cutting through the verses’ grey skies. ‘Vow”s vengeful tone rumbles around the venue, reinforced by the thousands singing its attitude-rife hook (“I came to tear your little world apart“) back at the band. ‘Stupid Girl’ is obviously the night’s most rapturously received track, followed closely by a sublime, moody ‘Only Happy When It Rains’.

In-between all of these, Manson’s on chatty form. Of the many anecdotes shared tonight, perhaps most important is her recalling the first song she wrote with Garbage – the first song she’d ever written, despite telling the rest of the quartet she was a songwriter before joining. “They gave me an instrumental track and told me to write a topline. I had no idea what that was. I was really freaking out,” she remembers of ‘Milk”s conception, before telling the crowd, with arms outstretched and passion in her voice, not to underestimate themselves because “you are capable of incredible things”.

Before B-side ‘Girl Don’t Come’, Manson explains the song is about “girls being equally as satisfied as boys”. “What a novel idea!” she remarks, voice heavy with derision as she turns to face Vig and the song explodes into life. During the encore, she’s joined by her niece, who makes her “public debut”. “She’s a little Shirley Manson in-training,” explains the singer. “In my family we say that I was just the warm up.” It’s a cute moment, but also a neat reminder of Manson’s role as an icon and hero to many. In the audience, women of all ages stare back at her – teenagers most likely watching Garbage for the first time, those who were there when it all began and are still waving feather boas like the one draped over Manson’s mic stand, but mangier; as if they’ve been waving them for the past 20 years. Based on tonight’s youthful, invigorating, positive performance, those boas will be flapping for a good few years yet.

Garbage played:
‘Girl Don’t Come’
‘As Heaven Is Wide’
‘The Butterfly Collector’
‘Not My Idea’
‘Trip My Wire’
‘Fix Me Now’
‘My Lover’s Box’
‘A Stroke Of Luck’
‘#1 Crush’
‘Stupid Girl’
‘Dog New Tricks’
‘Only Happy When It Rains’
‘Kick My Ass’
‘Driving Lesson’
‘Automatic Systematic Habit’
‘When I Grow Up’