Garbage at Kew Gardens
Long before Florence and her hair wafted onto the British music scene, there was another woman who made the much-maligned ginger feel cool: Shirley Manson. An altogether spikier, rockier proposition, she was one of the best frontwomen of the 90s, and the band have sold 17 million albums worldwide – with 1998’s Version 2.0 being a stalwart of most record collections at the time.
In an eclectic line up that includes Craig David, Rick Astley and Billy Ocean, Kew the Music is back this year. Kew Gardens is one of the most delightful places in London and enjoying a live performance there felt special. The concert was well-organised and must be one of the only “festival”-feel gigs where you are allowed to bring your own food and drink. It sounds a trivial thing but it was refreshing (literally) do be at an event where you didn’t feel you were being turned upside-down and fleeced for every penny when you have may have already forked out a sizeable amount on tickets. The performance area and stage were relatively small and the crowd was enjoying itself, but not too much and with sensible earplugs in place (it’s not 1998 anymore).
Manson, though, doesn’t seem to have aged at all, appearing in a jacket that made her look like a sequined, 3D Tetris shape. This apparition was magnetic. The Tetris number was swiftly jettisoned for a silver sequined dress that moved like fluid as Manson stalked the stage. Bandmates Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson created a shimmering sound that was matched by some great lighting: pulsating violets and blues to Version 2.0 orange to strobes for the encore.
The ensemble opened with a crowd-pleasing run of favourites (Stupid Girl, Temptation Waits and Wicked Ways –mixed with a cover of Personal Jesus, which was a highlight). Their sound is DayGlo alternative rock: pulsating, energetic and undeniable. You can’t help but sing along. The set was a good balance of the old and new, but it was classics such as I think I’m Paranoid and I’m Only Happy When It Rains that brought the most energy. The tunes are quite upbeat considering their rather unforgiving titles. This might be the key to their band’s lasting appeal: the lyrics are reflective and honest; they hold nothing back, but not in a vulnerable way. It’s an “I’m weird, accept it or move along” aesthetic that appeals to younger alternative feminists.
Manson was effusive in her praise for the warm-up acts and ended on a jubilant encore of When I Grow Up, inspiring the next generation of alternative girls to be who they are unapologetically.
Photos: Virginie Viche
For further information and future events visit Garbage’s website here.
Watch the video for Empty here: