Garbage – Manchester Apollo, April 2002

I was completely shattered when I arrived at the pub round the back of the Apollo. I had endured a hot week in Paris and arrived back in England the previous day, a coach journey to Manchester, a bus to the Apollo and a three-hour wait to get inside the place. But fuck, it was worth it. Keli Ali, of Sneaker Pimps fame supported and although she was really sweet and Shirley did make reference to her as “one of the only chicks in rock” I found it hard to gather any enthusiasm regarding the dull, bleary pop. I was apprehensive about the Gig as I was in fear their new record would be the substantial part of their performance (See BeautifulGarbage review for details) but that soon dissolved.

Shirley has gone from standing snarling and bitterly sneering to looking like she thinks live gigs are the best pastime ever

When Garbage came onstage I went pretty insane, my devotion to them renewed. Shirley Manson ran on stage the audiences screams drowned out by the opening chords of ‘Push it.’ The initial line of the song sums up Garbage very well: “I was angry when I met you, I think I’m angry still”. Butch Vig was unfortunately ill so the drummer was a replacement. Duke and Mark stood at the front of the stage and did some very complicated looking things on guitar indeed. Shirley leapt around, the mad punk ‘Queen Helen’ (as she demands on being known) gave it her all. She grinded, pogoed and generally had a great time, doing stage aerobics her way, smiling continually. Shirley has gone from standing snarling and bitterly sneering to looking like she thinks live gigs are the best pastime ever. At one point she gave the audience a long lament about the joys of playing guitar again but the horrors of stagefright. Her guitar is decorated with a beautiful red and Pink rose. It’s also nice to see Shirley getting in the swing of things. She happily chatted away in between songs, entertaining the crowd in her gorgeous Scottish accent.

The subject of her banter varied from calling Christina Aguilera a cunt (my vagina felt insulted by the comparison!), celebrating women in Rock (When Courtney was mentioned I became ecstatic), venting her rage at an evil journalist, laughing at his complaints that the show went on too long (I personally suspect it was one of the Dumbfuck minions at Kerrang) and explaining the significance of ‘Cherry Lips.’ It is a song for JT LeRoy who has experienced every hell possible. Instead of lying down to die he used it as catharsis, directing his pain into words. ‘Cherry Lips’ is where my interest in him began.

Shirley Manson is sincere, genuine, heartfelt and compassionate. She was especially lovely to her fans, when people began to throw jewellery onstage the security men tried to steal it. She demanded to keep all of her presents, proclaiming herself a magpie for all that is glittery. I flung my favourite star shaped hairclip, so I hope she delights in it! One girl threw a pink wristband, with cherry decor on stage and Shirley was very touched. She demanded to swap and gave the girl one of her own black bracelets. Bless her! The performance was excellent, professional and completely comfortable.

Their newfound cheer and sparkle has not affected Garbage’s ability to seethe or the vehemence of their older material

The set was tight and the band managed to convert the sheen of their albums into an amazing live atmosphere. The songs Garbage played were, for me, a medley of their greatest. ‘Temptation Waits’, ‘Cherry Lips’, ‘I think I’m paranoid’, ‘When I Grow Up’, ‘Not My Idea’, ‘Special’, ‘Only Happy When it Rains’, ‘Shut Your Mouth’, ‘Hammering in my Head’, ‘Stupid Girl’, ‘Breaking up the Girl’, ‘Vow’, ‘Til the Day I Die’.Neglected was ‘Queer’ but that was the only frown I made. Their newfound cheer and sparkle has not affected Garbage’s ability to seethe or the vehemence of their older material. Their earlier songs have lost none of their original hatred, spite or bitterness. Throughout the performance, in every break (and when Shirley wasn’t talking) I screamed for Supervixen and just as I thought my favourite song was not getting played it appeared as their last encore! When Shirley sang the final verse, ‘Bow Down to Me’, the audience did, which says all that is necessary about the very beautiful Garbage.

Why Shirley Manson is a Goddess:

‘Cutting my hair off was the most amazing, liberating, fucking incredibly empowering thing I ever did. When I walked down the stairs to meet my record company for the first time after not seeing them for two years, it really felt I was reclaiming something of my own. They (the record company) were horrified. And yet I never felt sexier or more in charge of my sexuality.’

“If somebody fucks with me then I’ll fuck with them back. And I’ll wipe the floor with them. It’s as simple as that.”

“There’s just more women with a variety of different personalities and talents who are picking up instruments and coming to the fore, getting involved in the music making and not just fronting a band. In the past, it was always really powerful, aggressive fighters who got ahead and got their music heard. Nowadays there’s more room for less strident, testosterone driven women – and men. And then there’s also a lot of women into hardcore music, they’re right down there in the moshpit, and that’s fantastic. That’s what I love about bands like Kittie: they are so hardcore, and they’re these 17 year old chicks. There are girls out there who are confound expectations and making just as much of a ferocious noise as men. You’ve got to keep butting your head against the wall, because you’ll finally make a dent.”

“Never forget the power of the individual.”

“I do feel raped, when people are listening to our music and hearing my memories and lyrics, and then just diminishing that contribution, attributing my experiences to three men – I have a problem with that. Rightly or wrongly, I feel really strongly about what I do. The music’s synonymous with who I am: I don’t read someone else’s script. When somebody denies that of me it is violation.”

“I think that being a bitch is a good thing because it means people are forced to respect you, and they don’t like it.”

“The more people are fearful of you, the more liberation you buy yourself.”

“I do believe that until women have an equal footing, then we should take every opportunity to make a fuss. Draw attention to the fact women are vital, are making music that people wanna listen to It’s important to keep hammering peoples consciousness. If we don’t accept the spotlight in the brief moments we get it, then were eradicating an opportunity to be heard and that’s crazy.”

“Courtney is demonised for behaviour which is considered endearing when it comes from men.”

“I think ultimately a successful woman is still a scary idea in our society. And I think women who are in bands, who form bands, are musicians, are trying to escape the prison in which the majority of women are kept. That’s why they join bands.”

“I’m like that now though, I’m obviously a retarded teenager.”

Editor’s note (October, 2015): This post contains disabilist and inappropriate language. This would not be published by The F-Word now, but has been left in for transparency.

Michelle Jenkin is the creator of PaperDollCuts zine.