Three of the most commanding front people in rock ’n’ roll history shared the stage at the Kauffman Center on Tuesday. Deborah Harry of Blondie, Shirley Manson of Garbage and Exene Cervenka of X impressed an audience of about 1,000 in the extraordinary triple bill.
The Scotland native Manson raved about the auspiciousness of the tour, admitting that she and her Wisconsin based band mates become “star-struck” each time they encounter the longtime members of Blondie and X’s Cervenka and John Doe.
Sandwiched between their elders, Manson’s relatively youthful band Garbage played their minor modern rock masterpieces for 75 minutes. “No Horses,” the quintet’s opening selection, is a new dystopian protest song during which Manson intoned “this is the apocalypse.” She quoted a line from the rapper Kendrick Lamar’s latest album during the closing selection “Vow.” The message was clear — Garbage intends to remain relevant 25 years after its formation.
The desires and predilections of longtime Garbage fans weren’t neglected. The band replicated the unusual production effects that made hits including “#1 Crush” among the most intriguing rock hits of the ’90s.
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An odd sound field provided a twist to the familiar material. Butch Vig, Garbage’s drummer and a celebrated producer of additional bands including Nirvana, may have intentionally opted for the muffled sonic replication that lacked sharp edges.
While Garbage played with military precision in spite of the strange mix, Blondie exhibited a willful disarray that reflected its roots in the New York punk scene of the ’70s during its 75 minute headlining set.
A curious rendition of the 1981 chart-topper “Rapture” balanced Harry’s goofy rap with a deliberately discordant solo by guitarist Chris Stein before morphing into Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” A reading of the disco-based 1979 hit “Heart of Glass” was performed with similarly charming nonchalance by the sextet.
Harry wore a black cape with a profanely worded environmental message during the first portion of Blondie’s outing, but she exuded undiluted positivity while delivering the burnished reggae of “The Tide Is High” and impressive new material like “Too Much.”
Cervenka and Doe have been making much angrier music with the Los Angeles band X for 40 years. With Doe wielding an acoustic guitar, the duo opened the show with a blend of caustic original material and earthy old-timey standards.
Manson suggested that the audience for Cervenka and Doe was “watching greatness,” a rare quality that carried over to the appearances by Garbage and Blondie.
Blondie set list
One Way or Another; Hanging on the Telephone; Fun; Call Me; My Monster; Rapture; Fragments; Too Much; Long Time; Atomic; Heart of Glass; The Tide Is High; Dreaming
Garbage set list
No Horses; Queer; #1 Crush; Empty; I Think I'm Paranoid; Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!); Blackout; Special; Cup of Coffee; Even Though Our Love Is Doomed; The World Is Not Enough; Only Happy When It Rains; Stupid Girl; Push It; Vow
Exene Cervenka and John Doe set list
Burning House of Love; Because I Do; Rank Strangers; Give Me Flowers While I’m Living; White Girl; Skin Deep Town; The New World