It was general admission and a sold out show, so fans arrived early at the South Side Ballroom to stake out a place close to the stage. That didn’t stop the late arrivals from jostling for position, though, so it was a mass of humanity doing the bump and grind on the floor.
The bumping increased as Garbage walked onstage to the slower anthem-like “No Horses.” Fans screamed as Shirley Manson flitted about the stage in her gold lame shirt/dress with a slit on the side high enough to reveal black shorts underneath. She captivated the crowd and even added a line to the song with “Get rid of that fucking beach ball.”
The hard guitar licks from Steve Marker highlighted the uptempo “Sex Is Not The Enemy.” Butch Vig pounded a throbbing drum beat to the lyric-driven “#1 Crush.” The bright, white spotlights behind the band made it difficult to see anything but the lovely, red haired singer, but nobody complained. After the alt-rock song, she continued her soap box diatribe about beach balls at a concert and the balls quickly disappeared.
After getting all worked up, the stylish vocalist put her soul into “Empty” to feed the crowd. “I Think I’m Paranoid” was even more somber in my section when a coward slapped a woman and took off running before security escorted him out the door. A light-hearted tone about a serious subject softened the mood for “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!).” The crowd sang the refrain as Manson traversed the entire width of the stage several times. Spotlights blinding the audience was symbolic for “Blackout” as the slower anthem featured a strong riff by Marker.
The Scottish lass added a red boa to her ensemble for “Special,” a song that energized the crowd. Shirley called “Cup Of Coffee” that darkest song they’ve ever written and the pall cast by the Phantom of the Opera vibe earned a huge hand from the admiring fans.
Duke Erikson thumped a dirty bottom bass beat as Manson lied down on the stage to sing “Even Though Our Love Is Doomed.” It drew a slow head bang from the crowd. Bond, James Bond, was the subject of the movie theme “The World Is Not Enough” with its distinctive Bond style.
Manson pranced around the stage and interacted with the crowd during their hit “Stupid Girl.” The rock song earned a big hand and segued into the slower beat of “Only Happy When It Rains.” She showcased her powerful contralto voice to thrill the audience.
Shirley was very animated during the fast-paced “Push It” as she jumped around, danced and had fun. The enthusiasm was contagious as the crowd responded in kind. The spirit continued into the closing song “Vow.” Dual guitar licks pushed the pace as Ms. Manson twirled and danced. An extended jam pumped up everyone who continued to cheer as she blew kisses to the fans and the band left the stage.
A video played as Blondie walked out with vocalist Debbie Harry wearing a bee-hat and a jacket with a message about our planet printed on back. The crowd exploded at the first notes of “One Way Or Another” as most of the audience had been playing it since it came out on vinyl. The iconic star still maintained a large stage presence, just as she did in those same days.
A phone ringing was the intro to the uptempo “Hanging On The Telephone.” The knowledgeable fans, even the younger ones, sang along as Debbie played up to them. Her voice was stronger than during their heyday and it carried “Fun” along with the back beat of original drummer Clem Burke.
The familiar beginning of “Call Me” ignited the crowd. Ms. Harry took off her bee ears and jacket to sing in her old-school black shirt over black hose and black panties, and danced while Tommy Kessler expertly fingered the fret. Burke provided the backbone as the tight band showed their cohesion on “Gravity.”
The stage was bathed in red light and the audience took over singing “Rapture.” Debbie had a lot of fun which carried over to everyone in the venue. The overhead lights came on every time the lyric “Everybody must get stoned” played during Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.”
A slow beat began the the love song “Fragments” before a chord change shifted to a fast-paced 80s song. Matt Katz-Bohen pounded the keys to lead the uptempo part of the song. Matt also wrote “Too Much” as Debbie led the crowd to wave their arms in the air. It looked like a 70s rock show as original member Chris Stein strummed the guitar just as he did back then.
The upbeat “Long Time” fit Debbie’s voice perfectly. The feel-good song kept the audience enthralled, not that there was any chance of losing interest. After all, they were being treated to a show by a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band.
An electrified guitar intro preceded Debbie’s powerful voice on “Atomic.” Burke led a chord change and Kessler absolutely exploded on a hellacious solo during the extended jam. He used the whole stage and impressed everyone who wasn’t familiar with his talent.
The fans again went bombastic upon hearing the beginning of “Heart Of Glass.” They sang as loud as possible and hit a new decibel level during the “ooh ooh ooh whoa” part. The extended jam electrified the crowd before the band left the stage to thunderous applause.
The group came back to a ramped-up version of “My Heart Will Go On,” a cover of Celine Dion’s huge hit and Debbie turned it into hard-charging rock. Huge cheers went out at the distinctive beginning of “The Tide Is High.” The fans sang every word until the band took over with a prolonged jam session. Burke ended the song with a frenetic drum finish as Debbie led the crowd in dancing, swinging and gyrating. It segued directly into the pulsating “Dreaming.” The uptempo song was a terrific choice for a show-closer as it amped up the energy in the packed ballroom. The final jam left the crowd spent as the band waved goodbye to their adoring fans.
It’s always fun to see two bands who are so intertwined and complement each other. Garbage was heavily influenced by Blondie and Shirley Manson gave the induction speech at their Hall of Fame presentation. The high-profile lead singers have had acting careers in addition to their successful music careers. The comparisons go on and on, but the overriding factor is that both are members of bands with extremely talented musicians who work hard to make the music a success.
Fans who came to see only one of the bands were pleasantly surprised to hear and become fans of the other. The ones who were fans of both knew it would be a special night and went home happy with what they saw and heard.
Their tour is over, but they’ll be on the rode again. Catch them when they’re in your area.
Joe Guzman of Infrared Magazine was on hand to record the event.