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Hailed ’90s alt-rock band Garbage filled the Royal Oak Music Theatre almost to capacity Monday as they performed for the first time in the city. The Wisconsin-based band, with Scottish lead singer Shirley Manson, had only played once before in the area – a 2012 concert in Detroit.
The show opened with Torres, a Georgia-based singer who played a short set of alt-rock evocative of ’90s dreampop. The singer, born Mackenzie Scott, oscillated her vocals between strong, haunting moans to more punky screams in her closing song. Manson would later specifically note Torres as, “The singer you can say, ‘You saw them here first.'”
After a fairly short break following the opener, a screen projection of a mish-mash of clips from the 1990s was shown before Garbage made their entrance. The short video highlighted the evolution of not only the band during the period, but culture and technology as a whole. The montage served as a precursor for Manson’s early announcement that the show would only play their music through 1996 in honor of the 20th anniversary of their self-titled first album.
“I know that might leave some people disappointed,” Manson admitted, but the crowd roared in enthusiasm for the more classic Garbage tracks. “We’ll be playing some more obscure tracks, B-sides, too.”
The band initially opened with a B-side – “Subhuman” – with lights strobing so brightly that the band appeared as silhouettes. After only brief pauses between songs, the band transitioned into songs like their early hit “Queer,” before Manson would finally pause to talk with the crowd. The seemingly ageless Manson gyrated around the stage throughout the almost two hours of performance, at one time noting to the crowd, “I don’t know about you, but I’m sweating up here like a motherfucker!”
The entirety of their debut album was then performed in addition to other B-sides like “Girl Don’t Come,” an “ode to the difficulty of achieving the female orgasm when it just isn’t right with someone,” said Manson. Creative arrangements made familiar songs like “Vow” and “I’m Only Happy When It Rains” new again, and “Driving Lesson” and “Butterfly Collector” were other B-sides that made the set, including a tribute to Manson’s friend – Vic Chesnutt – with a cover of “Kick My Ass.” The cover was initially recorded by the band for Sweet Relief, a charity dedicated to helping musicians in need. Garbage’s only number one hit in the U.S. – fittingly, “#1 Crush” – would later round out the B-side inclusions in the show and finish the first set; the single gained fame from the “William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet” soundtrack.
Manson has been known for her outspoken support of the LGBT community, including within Garbage songs like “Androgyny” off of their 2001 “Beautiful Garbage” album, and this was no exception during her Royal Oak show. During some banter – to which Manson acknowledged, “I like to talk! I like to connect! I know some of you may be creeped out, but I don’t give a fuck!” – the pink-haired singer discussed the band’s previous show in the area. She recalled someone contacting her online before the show, expressing desire to propose to his boyfriend during the band’s Detroit stop. Manson was moved and agreed to the set-up, though she joked with the crowd, “That was a one-time thing. I’m no priest!” Said couple were then recognized in the crowd by Manson, who joyfully said, “And they’re here tonight!” to applause from the crowd. She also expressed strong feelings for “always supporting the LGBT community” and being grateful “that we can love who we love.”
After a brief break following “#1 Crush,” Garbage came back and broke their earlier promise of performing only music before 1996, playing tracks off of their 1998 “Version 2.0.” In addition to “I Think I’m Paranoid,” Garbage would then close the show with “When I Grow Up.” Manson didn’t stop her “connecting,” even at the end, as she changed the lyrics to the final song to, “When we grow up, we’ll turn the tables” as she gestured to the crowd.