Shirley Manson’s charisma is a tantalizing mix of the best traits of her peers. The lead singer and frontwoman for the band Garbage has the tenacity and nerve of alpha women like Chrissie Hynde and Joan Jett. But she also flashes the grace of, say, Annie Lennox.
And she’s not above spitting out a few f-bombs, mother f-bombs and other choice words when technical issues disrupt her show, which happened Sunday night at the Uptown Theater, where Garbage headlined before a crowd of about 800.
The technical problems were relatively minor but recurring. Manson bantered through them, charming the crowd with both her sense of humor and her truck-stop profanity, all delivered in her thick Scottish brogue. Thanks to a sound mix that was muddy at times, however, what she was saying wasn’t always perceptible. Nor were her lyrics always crystal clear.
Nonetheless, for more than 100 minutes, she and her band entertained an enthusiastic crowd that was primed to hear Garbage’s patented uber-sheened blend of chrome-plated pop, grunge, industrial- and techno-rock and other sonic additives. Its earliest music is now more than two decades old, but 20 years later, it still sounds contemporary, even inventive.
The band is touring on “Strange Little Birds,” its sixth studio album, released June 10. The set list featured several of its tracks, like “Sometimes,” which opened the show, “Empty,” “Blackout” and “Even Though Our Love Is Doomed,” a dense, thunderous dirge that lived up to its title.
Manson was backed by four musicians, including fellow founding members Steve Marker and Duke Erikson, but one of them was not drummer Butch Vig, who, Manson explained, was home nursing a debilitating sinus infection. He was replaced by Matt Walker, who has performed with Filter and the Smashing Pumpkins, among other bands.
The new material is invigorating and adventurous, and it fit in well with the hits and best-known songs, like “I Think I’m Paranoid,” which arrived early and stoked a crowd that stood and gave the band a loud ovation the moment it took the stage. They followed that with “Stupid Girl,” a track from their stellar self-titled debut album, which will turn 21 years old next month.
Manson prowled the stage from one side to the next, pumping fists and hopping about. She engaged the crowd up front all night, posing for photos, slapping hands, donning a feather boa that someone loaned her. She also accepted a bouquet of flowers.
The highlights were the songs that have retained their appeal all these years, steel-toed rock/pop anthems like “Special,” “Supervixen,” “Push It,” “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)” and “Only Happy When It Rains” and the darker, trippy songs, like “No. 1 Crush,” one of the encores.
The buzz-saw hard-pop anthem “Sex Is Not the Enemy,” from the underrated “Bleed Like Me” album, was another highlight. Manson dedicated it to the LGBT community, after giving a short but impassioned homily about equality.
She delivered another speech during the encore. This one was a sincere expression of gratitude to the audience and our city for supporting the band and allowing it to do what it loves most all these many years. It was much appreciated.
They closed with “Why Do You Love Me,” a gummy, power-pop/metal anthem about co-dependency and an unstable relationship. Despite its dour lyrical theme, it ignited one final time a smitten crowd that dismissed the show’s glitches and indulged in a band that has preserved its durable charms for more than 20 years.
Sometimes; I Think I’m Paranoid; Stupid Girl; Special; Blood for Puppies; The Trick Is to Keep Breathing; Empty; My Lover’s Box; Sex Is Not the Enemy; A Stroke of Luck; Even Though Our Love Is Doomed; Control; Blackout; Automatic Systematic Habit; Bleed Like Me; Push It; Vow; Only Happy When It Rains; Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go). Encore: Supervixen; No. 1 Crush; Why Do You Love Me.