Saturday, April 06, 2013

A Much More Enjoyable Night of Garbage (Especially for Me) -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

with io Echo
Riviera Theatre, Chicago
April 3, 2013

In most respects, I really didn't need to see Garbage again.

Although I've always liked them, and I enjoyed their show Wednesday night at the Riviera Theatre, this was the 6th time I've seen them--in six different years over the past 15. Most recently was just eight months ago at the Metro.

While they remain a powerhouse live act, with Shirley Manson still likely rock's premier female "front man," perhaps because their recent material doesn't capture me like the early stuff, in concert they haven't been quite as rapturous as in the past.

To their credit, the Madison, Wisconsin-bred band likely recognized the probable prevelance of repeat fans and thus played nine songs that they didn't last August. As their 1995 debut album remains their best, it was nice to hear Garbage reach back for relative rarities like "As Heaven is Wide" and "Milk" to complement "I'm Only Happy When it Rains," "Stupid Girl" and "Queer." (See the full setlist for Garbage at the Riviera on

Still I can't say the band's performance at the Riv was substantively better than the one at the Metro, which I also rated @@@@ (out of 5).

I just liked it a lot more.

As I wrote about in this review of the Metro show, that was one of the more uncomfortable evenings out of the nearly 550 concerts I've attended.

I don't blame Garbage nor, necessarily, the venerable and oft venerated Wrigleyville venue. But in being stuffed in like a sardine at the back of a standing room only floor--I admittedly prefer to sit these days--next to a makeshift beer stand with a very territorial barkeep, with very little air circulation on a sweltering August night, well, although Garbage sounded good, from their first note I couldn't wait for the show to end.

And that's why I had to go to Wednesday's show: to get the bad taste of my last Garbage gig--even if they themselves were good--out of my mouth. I didn't want to associate a band I've liked for nearly 20 years with one rotten evening.

Thankfully, from a personal comfort standpoint, my experience at the Riv was 100% better than at the Metro.

Which isn't to condemn the latter venue; I knew that the Metro has no seating options yet went anyway because I really wanted to see Garbage after a 7-year layoff. But had I known that they'd play the Riviera this spring, I wouldn't have bothered with the Metro.

Like the Metro, the Riviera--on Broadway in Uptown--is a general admission venue. But as a former movie palace, it has a large balcony full of seats, and if you get to a show early enough--I arrived at 7:15 for the 7:30 gig with a pretty good opening act called io Echo--you can typically get a seat.

Which I did, about 10 rows up, and sat comfortably all night.

And while I didn't absolutely love every minute--some of the new songs just aren't terrific--I didn't rue a moment of the nearly 2-hour performance.

Songs from the first and second Garbage albums were, as expected, the best of the night, but it was also great to hear "Cup of Coffee" from their their record, 2001's Beautiful Garbage.

Manson was in fine form, vocally and in terms of endearing stage patter, at one point even rambling on
about her "arse" (she's from Scotland).

To open the encores, Shirley and drummer Butch Vig paid tribute to a key crew member--sorry, I didn't catch his name--who was leaving the tour after the show. Touchingly, they allowed him to play drums on "Push It," as Vig gave up his seat to play the tambourine and join Manson at stage center, even singing a few lines.

A terrific version of "Stupid Girl" followed, an ample reminder of why I've liked Garbage so much, and "You Look So Fine," ended the show, but not before Manson sprinkled in a few lines of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams."

It was a nice way to end a night that was the antithesis of my relative nightmare back in August. Even though the band--accompanied on tour by Jane's Addiction bassist Eric Avery--was never really at fault, all is now metaphysically redeemed.

Who knows if I'll ever see Garbage in concert again; unless they come out with a really killer album I probably don't need to. But in the right place, as this show proved, it certainly couldn't hurt.

Below is a video of Garbage performing "Stupid Girl" at a recent show in Montreal, posted to YouTube by Mechamilla:

No comments: