Hollywood Palladium

By Judy Coleman

Contrary to media portrayals, not all rock stars are one-dimensional. Case in point: Shirley Manson during Garbage's concert at the Palladium. Thanks in part to the band's titillating music videos and countless articles focused more on her fiery personality than her music, Manson has become America's Number One Vamp. With a few angry moments excepted, the Shirley Manson that appeared on stage at the Palladium was a far cry from the she-devil everyone now expects.

With her usually coifed flaming-red hair modestly pulled back, and her often- bared body hidden under a black sleeveless shirt and pants, Manson seemed reserved and even friendly. She chit-chatted about past crushes, dedicated "Wicked Ways" to her "beautiful girl Courtney Love," and coaxed the audience as they cheered her back on stage for the encore by teasing, "See! You can make noise when you want to!"

With Shirley's stage presence toned down a notch, the real star of Garbage, the music, became the priority. Opening with "Temptation Waits," the first track on Version 2.0, the band played a rapidly fired mixed bag of songs from their two albums. Old singles like "Only Happy When It Rains" still rang true with the audience, who sang along with every word. Despite initial problems the band had transferring the songs' computer elements to the live show, Garbage overcame any dependency on technology smoothly. Surprisingly, even the techno-infused "Hammering In My Head" succeeded on stage as the band stripped away the computer-created subtleties to reveal its raw potency.

Despite the complex beauty of Garbage's textured sounds, this concert made it difficult to deny that rock is the heart and soul of both albums. Even the poor sound quality at the Palladium, which nearly ruined the opening set by Girls Against Boys, could not muddle the undeniably searing riffs of "Push It" and "Stupid Girl." The breakneck pace of the singles parade slowed only once briefly when the band covered Big Star's gorgeous ballad "Thirteen." Guitarist Duke Erickson seized the opportunity to steal the spotlight at times, flashing the guitar with showmanship and offering beaming grins to the audience. Bassist Steve Marker kept to his corner of the stage while drummer Butch Vig remained a quiet force behind the Plexiglas shield of his drum kit.

Surprises still peppered the evening despite the get-down-to-business attitude that prevailed on stage. At one point, Manson threatened an audience member who had thrown something on stage. "By God I'll find you, and by God I'll f*** you up!" she shouted, rallying the rest of the audience into a battle cheer. She proved that the lioness Shirley was still there, but the rage dissipated as she broke into the next song. Her sense of humor returned when she inserted the lyrics to the Spice Girls anthem "Wannabe" into the chorus of "Stupid Girl."

Despite what may have been their goals, Garbage proved three things during this performance at the Palladium: 1) They are not a "soph-o-more slump" as Manson said in her strong Scottish accent, 2) Their frontwoman is a force to be reckoned with even when she's not serving up the soundbytes, and 3) Rock is still alive and kicking in their music, even if it does have a bit of a computer addiction.