Warm-up show review

By Tom Alesia

COMBINED LOCKS, Wis. -- Ryan's Ballroom is a suburban Appleton nightclub (yeah, Appleton has burbs, who knew?) that sponsors youth soccer teams and presents bands in a tiny former elementary school gym.

Last Thursday, the club featured its typical local fare, in this case, something called Denny and the Bad Cats.

The next night, Ryan's became the testing ground for Garbage's world tour. Billed as ``An Evening with Stupid Girl,'' the slightly veiled show was actually Garbage's warm-up gig before starting a brief U.S. tour and major European jaunt.

So add Combined Locks, population: 2,188, to Garbage's more high-profile stops soon in San Francisco, Toronto, New York, Paris, London, Vienna and Munich.

To get a $12.50 ticket to Garbage's northeast Wisconsin show, you had to ask Ticketmaster about a ``Stupid Girl'' show. (Confused? Pity the poor Ticketmaster worker when I insisted: Listen, lady, I know Garbage is playing in Appleton.)

Regardless of the fuss, about 500 people packed Ryan's Ballroom for a full 95-minute concert that hardly resembled a dress rehearsal.

I hate to rub it in, folks, 'cause Garbage ain't gonna be playing any more club shows, but it was one of the most fun concerts I've seen.

Of course, it helps that I was standing about 10 feet from where Shirley Manson and the Madison Three eagerly tore through their first live gig after more than a year in the studio.

Let me put it another way: Garbage's music was so invigorating that I danced sober for the first time since I reviewed the B-52s years ago.

Why did Garbage, who rehearsed several days last week at the Barrymore Theatre, choose Combined Locks instead of Madison for its kickoff show? Drummer Butch Vig said they didn't want to play their hometown until they were in top form.

Still, Friday's show -- while, sure, spotty in parts -- indicated what a potent musical force Garbage's new album, ``Version 2.0,'' will be well into 1999.

A whirlwind effort that never strays too far from pop accessibility, ``Version 2.0'' translates into stellar live material.

It's loaded with tunes ready to blow fresh air onto staid radio airwaves and into arenas. ``Temptation Waits,'' ``Special'' and ``I Think I'm Paranoid'' (the band's second single) were concert highlights Friday.

But it was ``When I Grow Up'' that drew the crowd's loudest response. Even Manson seemed surprised at the enthusiasm for the song, which may make radio programmers uneasy due to mentions of ``golden showers'' and an unwanted pregnancy that Manson scoffs at in one line. ``There are some music executives who are going to wet their pants,'' Manson told the crowd, over whether to release it as a single.

Aside from new material, Garbage played several prominent tunes from its debut album and three fantastic B-sides.

And Manson also made the most pointed and unprintable tribute to Frank Sinatra. She urged us to listen to Sinatra while, um, uh, engaging in a sexual act.

Garbage will play Madison early next fall, likely at the Coliseum or Kohl Center. Don't miss it.

Garbage's setlist from full warm-up show:
``Push It''
``Fix Me Now''
``My Lover's Box''
``Hammering in My Head''
``Stupid Girl''
``Temptation Waits''
``Tripped My Wire''
``No. 1 Crush''
``When I Grow Up''
``I Think I'm Paranoid''
``Only Happy When It Rains''
``Thirteen'' (Big Star cover)
``Girl Don't Know''
``You Look So Fine''[QL]