Garbage in Boston

Matthew Shelter on March 28, 2013

House of Blues
Boston, Mass.
March 26

After a seven-year hiatus from the road, alt-rockers Garbage have been making up for lost time with a world tour that has seen them play more than 100 dates over the last year, spanning the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. The band hit the House of Blues in Boston recently, at the front end of the final U.S. leg of their tour, which runs through mid-April.

The tour has been dubbed the “Not Your Kind of People World Tour,” after the group’s album of the same name released last spring. Prior to that, Garbage had neither toured nor released an album since 2005. I had missed the band during an earlier stop in Boston last May, and was glad to get a second chance to see them, largely because I was curious to find out if their long time away from the road had diminished any of lead singer Shirley Manson’s captivating stage presence.

Well, that curiosity was satisfied within the first couple of songs. Manson was riveting from the start, prowling the stage with all the pent-up fury of a lynx that has been loosed from its cage. She looks, moves and sings with such purpose it’s as if all the intervening years since the band’s 1995 debut have melted away. Manson may hail from a spirited line of tough-as-nails punk chicks going back to Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde, but she has a way of commanding the stage that is all her own.

The band – which includes Butch Vig on drums, Duke Erikson and Steve Marker on guitar and keyboards, and Eric Avery on bass – opened with “Automatic Systematic Habit,” a song that sounded even nastier in concert than it does on Not Your Kind of People, followed by “Queer” and “Blood for Poppies.” About a third of the 21-song set list were tracks from the most recent album, with the remainder drawn from the band’s four previous releases. After a blistering version of the new track “I Hate Love” – which, as the name might imply, is not much of a love song – Manson segued into an older number, “Cup of Coffee,” off of 2001’s Beautiful Garbage, saying “this is part two of the same story.” The first song a ‘f – k you’ song of the type at which Garbage excels; the second, a ‘how am I gonna live without you’ song. What else do you ever really need to sing about?

Other standouts from the show included pounding takes on “Paranoid,” “Cherry Lips” and “Only Happy When It Rains” ; a softer, mid-tempo “Beloved Freak” that closed out the main set; and a smoky version of “You Look So Fine” during the encore, with Manson sampling several verses from the Fleetwood Mac classic “Dreams.”