Garbage Celebrate 20 Years The Space at Westbury, NY 10-23-15

Garbage Celebrate 20 Years The Space at Westbury, NY 10-23-15

The year was 1995, sadly Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was gone, but Alternative Rock remained king while bands such as Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis, and Radiohead dominated the airwaves. Diverse in style, as well sound, each band had a unique quality to offer, and then something unexpected happened when one from Madison, Wisconsin by the name of Garbage exploded onto the scene. Forming in 1993, the band met then unknown Scottish vocalist Shirley Manson in 1994, resulting in the musician to take a leap of faith to transport herself to an unknown land away from family and friends to work on what would their debut album self-titled album. Released in August of 1995, Garbage was an instant hit, topping charts, garnering five massive singles, and years later, is considering an innovative masterpiece.

Now following the twentieth anniversary of the landmark album, Manson and her bandmates  Steve Marker (guitar, keyboards), Duke Erikson (bass guitar), along with Butch Vig (drums) celebrate with a special tour dubbing it the 20 Years Queer Tour. Kicking the US leg of the tour off on October 6th the run wrapped up on October 29th, but not before two New York area stops. The first of those New York stops found the band on Long Island Friday the 23rd to play The Space at Westbury. An exciting time indeed, fans came from all over to see the performance and were well aware of the historical nature of the night, seeing Garbage would be performing their debut record in its entirety. With many songs never heard live ever before, it was easy to feel the energy in the theater as people piled to bear witness.

As direct support for Garbage, a young artist going by the name TORRES set the mood for the night. Led by Singer/Songwriter Mackenzie Scott, under the  pseudonym TORRES, this artist takes on a style which is dark, ambient, and at times heavy. Currently residing in Brooklyn, NY TORRES released her debut self-titled record independently in 2013, and in 2015, offers up perhaps her most mature effort, Sprinter.

With a full band around her, the bleached-blonde singer took center stage wearing black and a guitar in hand as deep purple and pink lights set the mood. Immediately captivating the audience with almost Shoegaze like melodies, heavy Grunge-like guitars, and unhinged, emotional vocals, TORRES played a s series of songs from Sprinter. Capitalizing on the breathing space of each song, TORRES let loose during the performance and had everyone applauding for more. Gracious for the chance to open for Garbage, TORRES has solo dates set for January 2016, along with a show December 2nd at Webster Hall in NYC, so be sure to give this developing artist a listen.

Following the table-setting opener, the floor of The Space had now become completely packed with fans of all ages and backgrounds ready to revel in a one-of-a-kind concert experience with Garbage. Wasting little time between stage changes, the white curtain separating the crowd from the stage became illuminated with video as the track “Alien Sex Fiend” began to play, accommodated by a video of clips of the band. Keeping anticipation high, the curtain remained closed as white light beamed bright and silhouettes of Manson, Marker, Erikson, Vig, and touring bassist Erik Avery cast behind it as they opted to perform “Subhuman” concealed.

An interesting way to start the show, originally a B-side, the song hit hard and had everyone ready for more. Then, with that, the curtain opened and a roar of cheers erupted as “Supervixen” filled the air. Enthralled in their performance, Marker and Erikson moved about the stage while Manson stood down the middle, moving about to the groove. Going right into “Queer,” the audience was seen singing and dancing along. Manson, an open, honest individual, took a breath to speak to the audience and explained their set plans for the night to only play songs from 1995-1996. Receiving a warm scream of approval, Manson admitted many of these songs had never ever been performed live, and never will be again, amping up the excitement even more. Playing on with more B-sides, “Girl Don’t Come” came before “As Heaven Is Wide” and The Jam cover of “The Butterfly Collector.”

Continuing to mix up songs from the band’s formidable era, favorites like “Not My Idea” had everyone chanting along the chorus while “Driving Lesson” gave Manson a chance to give people some insight of their early days prior. It was here she spoke of arriving in Madison, Wisconsin knowing no one and having no money. Living in a hotel during their recording process of Garbage, she admitted to living off Baby Ruth candy bars from the vending machine, wishing she had a car to drive, thus “Driving Lesson” was born. Inspirational, Manson conveyed a message that no matter what walk of life one comes from, they all have dreams to do something more, and she certainly has with her amazing career in Garbage.

Bringing the mood down a notch, the single “Milk” was a perfect mid-set song that mesmerized the room as Manson’s inviting voice cast dark shadows. Confessing she is always asked why is she so dark, Manson, unashamed, stated she loves the dark. Undeniable that there is often beauty in darkness, they rattled out more powerful cuts like “Fix Me Now,” “My Lover’s Box,” and B-side “Sleep” that kept the evening flowing. Taking it back to the beginning, they then went into their first single ever, “Vow,” and Manson continued to show impassioned feelings, circling the stage, raising her hands to the air, and singing intensely.  Keeping everyone fully engaged, “Dog New Tricks” provided a heavy bassline before “A Stroke of Luck” brought on the more dark, electronic sound and delicate piano. Giving Manson a chance to dig deeper into her psyche, the latter song was one fans were delighted to hear for the first time in twenty years.

As if they had the album on shuffle, Garbage saved their set-closing for some of their biggest commercial hits with “Only Happy When It Rains” and “Stupid Girl”  before another hidden treasure, “#1 Crush.” Enthusiastic in their delivery until the final note, the band walked off stage to a rousing applause, igniting their return moments later for an encore. Already playing the original debut studio album in its entirety, no one could even guess what tricks Garbage would have up their sleeve next. With that said, to many’s surprise, they began with Vic Chesnutt cover “Kick My Ass,” which is a sentimental song to Manson and the band. Expressing how fortunate she was to know the late songwriter, it seemed just to perform the song live in his honor. Riding high on emotion, the band went into 1996’s “Trip My Wire,” 2001’s “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!),” and finally, a lengthy rendition of 1998 single “Push It.” Overwhelmed by the audience response, the entire band applauded them and waved goodnight for the final time.

To say the 20 Years Queer Tour was a nostalgic trip down memory lane would be selling it short. This was a once in a lifetime celebration of one of the ’90s most important records and bands. The laid out setlist was nothing less than flawless, keeping the mood high and low at just the right times. Above all, Manson and Garbage were pure electricity the entire evening, completely dedicated to bringing the songs to the people the right way. While the US leg of the tour is sadly concluded, the European leg launches in Germany Halloween night, and one can only hope Garbage considers doing an extended US run once 2016 begins.

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Frank Malerba
frank@crypticrock.com
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