Review: Garbage at Belly Up Aspen |

Review: Garbage at Belly Up Aspen

Singer Shirley Manson on stage at Belly Up on Wednesday at Garbage's debut Aspen performance. The band is touring through the fall in support of its new album "Strange Little Birds."
Andrew Travers/The Aspen Times |

With a set that mixed new and old Wednesday night at Belly Up, Garbage pleased adoring fans eager to relive its mid-90s heyday while also proving the band is more than a nostalgia act.

Running nearly two hours, the performance plucked from every album in the Garbage catalog, including roaring takes on early hits like “Stupid Girl” and “Special,” and stand-out renditions of latter-day tracks like “Sex is Not the Enemy” and “Bleed Like Me.” Singer Shirley Manson led a call-and-response on “Only Happy When It Rains” that had the nearly full house singing “pour your misery down” and writhed on the stage screaming through the emotional apex of the show on “Push It.”

But songs from the recently released “Strange Little Birds” also went over surprisingly well, though it’s safe to assume many in the crowd were unfamiliar with them. The encore of “Empty,” with chugging industrial guitars and a classic soaring Manson vocal melody, was a high point, and the slow-burn ballad “Even Though Our Love is Doomed” seethed with intensity.

Manson, pink-haired and wearing a leopard-print blouse (with a leopard microphone stand to match), hasn’t lost a step after 21 years leading Garbage.

The show was marred, in part, by sound issues that rendered her vocals nearly inaudible for a substantial portion of the show. On “Queer,” her vocals went completely silent for nearly the entire first half of the song. The production team swapped out Manson’s mic after about an hour (the crowd cheered the replacement) but her voice still dropped out of the mix intermittently.

It’s a shame, because her voice was impeccable and the band was in pristine form.

While Garbage has always been largely propelled by Manson’s vocals and her fierce first-person songwriting, seeing the band live here emphasized the genius and complexity of its instrumentalists — it’s hard to fully appreciate all the wrinkles and intricacies of Garbage’s industrial pop until you see guitarists Steve Marker and Duke Erikson working keyboards, samples and effects between guitar licks.

The show marked the band’s local debut, though Marker has lived in Carbondale since 2006. With his local crowd in the house, Manson said it felt like playing a Marker family gathering, adding: “I can’t shake the feeling that I’m playing a 13-year-old’s bat mitzvah” (the only time she’d previously graced the stage at Belly Up had, in fact, been at Marker’s daughter’s bat mitzvah).

Manson proved herself a magnetic stage presence in the tight quarters of the music club, stalking the stage in more intense moments, sitting on the edge of it during more low-key ones and pausing a few times to talk to the crowd and give thanks.

Before performing “Queer,” Manson pledged solidarity with the LGBT community and discussed the recent rash of intolerance in the U.S. and the candidacy of “the despicable Donald Trump,” urging the crowd not to vote for him. Later, she riffed on the dangers of the social media age and how the curated and glamorous personas presented by others online often make us — and even make Manson, the rock goddess — feel inferior.

“Sometimes I feel fat, sometimes I feel old and ugly,” she told the crowd, before adding to an eruption of cheers: “But sometimes I wake up and think, ‘Oh, I’m an adorable badass.’”

Badass, indeed. Hopefully she and Garbage don’t wait another 21 years until their next Aspen show.

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