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Concert Review

Garbage makes triumphant return at Eagles Ballroom

Madison-born alternative rock band Garbage performed its first show in Milwaukee in nearly eight years at the Rave's Eagles Ballroom Saturday night.

Kiri Lin/The Rave

Madison-born alternative rock band Garbage performed its first show in Milwaukee in nearly eight years at the Rave's Eagles Ballroom Saturday night.

Saturday was an emotional and special night for Garbage, Scottish frontwoman Shirley Manson assured fans at the Rave's Eagles Ballroom.

You didn't have to take her word for it. The passion on stage spoke volumes.

It was emotional for a few reasons. For one, this was one of Garbage's final shows of its whirlwind, worldwide, yearlong tour, the band's first since it cut a tour short in 2005 and began an extended hiatus.

But more importantly, it marked Garbage's return to Milwaukee - familiar stamping grounds for the Madison-born alternative rock band - for the first time in nearly eight years.

And so among loved ones in addition to loving fans, Manson frequently expressed gratitude that so many people still cared about Garbage after 17 years. And surrounded by such comfort, there was a special sense of warmth between bandmates throughout the two-hour set. Manson hugged suit-clad, Madison-based bassist Duke Erikson (playing guitar and keys Saturday) leading into "The Trick Is to Keep Breathing," and affectionately leaned on him later in the set. For the start of "Only Happy When It Rains," she stood atop the drum platform to serenade Viroqua native and Grammy-winning rock producer Butch Vig. And the band (including guitarist and keyboardist Steve Marker and touring bassist Eric Avery, formerly of Jane's Addiction) broke into a spontaneous, slinky "Summertime" when Manson kicked off her heels and put on some flats.

Of the men, Marker and Erikson had the most flash, ripping into the snarling guitar riffs of old hits including "I Think I'm Paranoid" and "Queer," and on occasion, manhandling their instruments with gleeful vigor. Where the band fell short was in replicating some of the production polish from their glossy albums, but a track like "Blood for Poppies," from last year's "Not Your Kind of People," still sounded lively with its funky riffs and pop chorus.

And what Garbage couldn't accomplish technically it compensated for with Manson. A rock frontwoman to her core, she initially appeared on stage looking like a mad sorceress, her hair bunched up into a top knot, a black shawl gliding in a breeze. But soon enough, she came down to earth, frequently gesturing to and leaning over her fans, dramatically arching her back, and jabbing a clenched fist into her stomach.

Through her stage mannerisms, she was able to transform the unsettling, edgy "#1 Crush" into a moving, tragic lament. And she switched emotions with ease, following up a sultry lounge singer act for "Milk" with a playful run through of "When I Grow Up" where she ran circles around Vig's drum kit.

The guys in Garbage may have lived in Wisconsin longer, and this night may have been more their homecoming than hers, but she was clearly (and appropriately) the star of the show. And when the set came to a close, she was, appropriately, the first one off the stage, allowing her bandmates to revel in the cheers of the home state crowd.

Opening was IO Echo, another female-fronted alternative rock band. Manson swears it's going places, but it's still too soon to say - the alternative rock band's debut full-length "Ministry of Love" just came out a few days ago, so the crowd reception was a bit chilly. But frontwoman Ioanna Gika, with her white kimono and dramatic gestures, clearly learned a thing or two from Manson.

The Takeaways

 • Manson said they weren't planning to play "Breathing" but slid it into the set after Erikson met a fan who said it would make her millennium if she could hear the song live.

 • In introducing "As Heaven Is Wide," Manson mentioned how she had recently watched the HBO documentary "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God," concerning child sexual abuse by a priest at St. John's School for the Deaf in St. Francis. Like the film, the song stood for standing up for people who didn't have a voice, she said.

 • At one point, Manson gave a special shoutout to the Marker family, who were there "en masse," and apologized for having the tendency to swear a lot whenever they are in the crowd. Then she issued a special shoutout to the Marker matriarch, affectionately calling her a choice 12-letter word as Vig burst into applause.


© 2013, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved.

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