I mean 24 hours earlier I was packed like a sardine into a local pub listening to a shed-full of young (and some maybe not so young) punk bands who charged £10 for a T shirt whilst supping lager at £3 a pint. Tonight, I find myself in the University Great Hall in Cardiff where T Shirts are almost three times as much and you’ll be lucky to get two pints for a tenner never mind three. This though by Garbage’s standing is still what you would call “an intimate gig”, they really do not HAVE TO play venues of this size anymore, in fact only the previous night they had played a huge outdoor show at London’s Kew Gardens and having sold over 50 million albums worldwide I’ll certainly not begrudge them any of their hard-earned success. In fact when Shirley Manson talks glowingly tonight about the University circuit being her bread and butter back in her Goodbye Mr Mackenzie days you know it’s not the usual rock star bonhomie bullshit, she genuinely is excited to be able to for once see the whites of people’s eyes, and it shows.
Having witnessed Garbage live on the ‘Version 2.0’ tour first time around back 1998 (at the Newport Centre if I remember correctly) I’m delighted to see the band still sounding as clinically lethal as they did two decades earlier, maybe even more so with the anniversary tour of said album now adding additional tracks from the two albums the band have recorded since 2010. Plus, unlike most anniversary tour’s what Garbage do is play selected songs from the album mixed into the set rather than play the whole bloody thing in sequence, something I must admit I’ve found pretty hit and miss when other bands do it.
So tonight it’s kind of like a greatest hits set albeit they don’t play one of their biggest hits (‘Queer’) and with the more recent tracks like the pulsating ‘No Horses’ the prophetic ‘Blood For Poppies’ and the almost ambient b side ‘On Fire’ adding some stunning musical light and shade to the minimalist yet hugely effective stage set up I’m delighted to say this is miles away from being just 90 minutes of nostalgia for the jumpers around the shoulders brigade who tend to blight these kind of shows, in fact there aren’t many of those types in attendance tonight, albeit perhaps a few too punters who could have reigned in their camera phone usage a bit. Still its not every day rock royalty play such an intimate show so I’ll forgive them this once. Just don’t be doing it when The Cult come to town this October, or there will be trouble.
With a set packed full of songs as awesome as ‘Vow’, ‘Stupid Girl’, ‘Push It’ and encore ‘When I Grow Up’ you could almost forget that Butch Vig wasn’t behind the kit tonight (he’s been temporarily replaced once again by the returning Matt Walker whilst he undergoes surgery on his shoulder) especially with Manson, Erikson and Marker on such find form, the trio posing and preening like musicians half their age, and putting some younger bands (I’ll come to Du Blonde in a minute) totally to shame. Having witnessed a few bands recently where I found myself watching the clock as they trundled into the home straight tonight was a full scale 90 minute musical adrenalin rush and if anything I wish they could have played for longer. Unlike it has to be said tonight’s opening trio Du Blonde who not only looked like they’d just fallen out of bed but also sounded so bloody nice I just wanted it to end, after just a trio of songs. People around me though certainly seemed to enjoy them, but for someone who has worked in the industry for well over a decade now I was perhaps expecting something a little bit more challenging from Beth Jeans Houghton.
Talking of which is was Dinah Washington wasn’t it who popularised ‘What a Difference a Day Makes’, now that was one provocative singer if ever there was one. Du Blonde please take note!
Author: Johnny Hayward