Garbage vowed to do a lot of dire things on their mid-’90s chart topper “#1 Crush,” but these days the kinds of actions that the band has been promising sound less like “I would kill for you” and more along the lines of “I’ll take an Uber for you.” After the group’s bus broke down for the second time in five days this weekend, Garbage were stranded in New York well into Sunday morning, only hours before their show last night (July 30) in Boston with Blondie at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion. And with the Pavilion’s strict 11 p.m. noise curfew, there’s little wiggle room for tardiness — but Garbage dropped the curtain precisely on time.
“We thought we weren’t going to make it at 2 o’clock this morning,” singer Shirley Manson told the crowd. “It’d been a taxing 24 hours.”
Starting out with new single “No Horses”, a fitting angst-y battle cry of a banger, the alt-rock luminaries dug into their 75-minute set, which was unfortunately far shorter than usual due to splitting the bill equally with Blondie on their co-headlining “Rage and Rapture” tour.
Despite their fatigue from two tour bus mishaps in the past week, their only real fumble was a false start on “Empty,” followed by an innocent “uh oh” from Manson and a quick recovery upon their second go at the song. In fact, considering the week they’ve had, the “Push It” lyrics “this is the noise that keeps me awake” might have actually been 100 percent true.
Manson, with red locks that are more abrasive than ever, wielded her microphone around stage like a dagger, making particularly ominous swings and lunges during “#1 Crush” and “Special.” The group’s performance of “The World Is Not Enough” unfolded as nothing less than epic, and being a James Bond theme, it of course mandates such treatment.
Not so long ago, Garbage was in town celebrating the 20th anniversary of their self-titled debut album at the Orpheum on their “20 Years Queer” tour, playing the album front to back. Their 2017 Boston show, on the other hand, contained far less “old school” Garbage, down to replacing “Queer” with “Sex Is Not The Enemy” in their set. With new album Strange Little Birds released just last year, the show included a significant amount of newbies, while peppering in “Vow,” “Only Happy When It Rains,” and “Stupid Girl” as highlights from their celebrated 1995 debut.
Technically being Blondie’s opener for the evening, Garbage ducked out after 15 songs and no encore, but not with paying sincere homage to Debbie Harry and naming their tour together “a spectacular summer camp.”
It takes a lot to outdo Manson’s digs — a black latex dress that looks like it was sewn together from scraps of an S&M getup — but Debbie Harry achieved just that in about 30 seconds. Stepping onstage in oversized John Lennon-style shades, a cape reading “Stop Fucking The Planet,” and a headpiece with two sparkling bee abdomens on it (a nod to Blondie’s newest album, Pollinator) Harry glammed it up while singing “One Way or Another” and quickly slipping into “Call Me.”
Pollinator, while given mixed reviews by many critics, sounded far better in real life, showing off the deep grit in Harry’s vocals that was smoothed out on the album version. Namely, “Fun” rang like a disco bop that could have been written by Lady Gaga circa 2008.
The majority of the group’s music has aged remarkably well (although “Rapture,” which featured the then-burgeoning genre of rap, sounds rather ridiculous in 2017), but they still opted to dedicate nearly a fourth of the set to covers (“The Tide is High,” “Hanging on the Telephone,” “Rainy Day Women #12 &35”).
At 72 years young, Harry hasn’t lost her rock and roll edge, though; before performing new song “Long Time” she dedicated the tune to the all the “pollinators out there.”
“Gotta keep you busy,” she said, sandwiching two thinly-veiled double entendres together, as if it were the most natural thing for someone your grandma’s age to be doing.
“Heart of Glass” our ass — both Harry and Manson have overcome the seemingly impossible: Staying fresh past the “expiration date” the music industry tends to slap on women over the age of 40. And that — along with putting on a smile after late-night transportation issues — remains its own damn achievement.
Photos by Victoria Wasylak. Follow her on Twitter @VickiWasylak.