Hordern Pavilion, Sydney,
October 7, 1996
Support: Pollyanna

Great rock bands have a swagger. They stun, they run, they slouch, they attack. And they seduce.

Garbage are a great rock band. A staggering ball of pent-up fury matched by a loose-limbed strut and the kind of precision a band that's been touring relentlessly for year spits out with venom.

This was a show that was never going to miss. As Shirley Manson incanted the lyrics to Queer offstage Steve Marker (stage left, guitar), Mike Kashou (centre right, bass) and Duke Erikson (stage right, guitar) were on their toers, Marker bouncing up and down as Butch Vig (legendary producer, drums) slammed in the groove.

Vig spanks drums, flails and mashes the skin. Great producer - equally great drummer.

Then on strutted Manson. Feral. The girl's got sex, spunk and sensuality down pat, her hips are electric and pelvic. Supervixen, maybe; she just goes off.

And they exploded. Marker a psycho storming the edge of the stage, retreating, slashing a black Gibson, manic and impassioned; Erikson a contrast studiously staring at his guitar then aiming it like a weapon and firing fills and leads into a crowd that smashed and crashed in a surging tidal wave. The wall of electricity poured down like silver, pure energy and through its fall samples cut wicked ambiences and Vig and Kashou pumped a rock hard bottom end that rumbled and trampled.

Manson - she sings, she caresses tones with lust and envy and greed and hate and desire. She's every bit the archetypal rock bitch and she's every bit a star; a ceaseless mover roaming like some pent-up caged animal, double-knee jumping, crouching, teasing, returning to the microphone stand to stare challenging at the front rows.

And she sends herself up. Here's the woman who's made more blatant sex comments in the past year than any woman since Niagara of Destroy All Monsters wearing a Playboy t-shirt above a black mini. You gotta smile.

When a black lace bra sailed past her she daintly tripped over to it, picked it up, turned round and straightfaced said "I appreciate the thought but I don't wear them". The pubescents in the front rows nearly fainted.

It was all irresistible, totally irresistible. The hits, the album, the b-sides, trotted out in a blaze of power and incandescence, the pace toyed with: a slower one here, there, a little poppier, more ambient, harsh, soft. Beautiful stuff. A band that can state 90s rock perfectly. A band that understands the need for harmony and melody and hook but isn't scared to show its dirty rough edges, isn't scared to stick its head in dark corners.

Highlights: tough call. Stupid Girl was a blast, amped up and punched out, Manson parodying the song's essence, wiggling her butt in all the right places; Stroke Of Luck was pure beauty, burning slow and pulsed , an ethereal wall of cascading notes touched off by a divinely blessed slinky back door man bottom end. Milk was so sublime that in the midst of its fragile grace the moshpit actually stood still and gawped, entranced by Manson, completely under he spell. Wicked, baby, wicked.

Vow and Only Happy When It Rains were everything they should have been, pop powered out on a rollercoatser ride from the cut side of emotion. A new song, Trip The Wire, sat perfectly, a pop monster with a build and hook that you could die for and an explosion of chords from Marker that seemed to absorb the airy old barn.

But what's most impressive is the way this lot move as unit. They're liquid, fluid, an onstage ebb and flow, constantly taking it to the audience, daring 'em to go higher.

Fabulous stuff - and they're only a couple of years old!

An hour after the show Butch Vig was still recovering. He smiled thinly, said he was utterly drained, could hardly stay awake.

Then he beamed: "That's the best show we've done since getting back on the road. It killed Singapore, and Adelaide and Melbourne were pretty average but tonight, it happened. I had this killer mix in my headphones, everything was just crashing, this giant sound. Steve and Duke were having big ones. And, yeah, it was loose. Loose is good, but not too loose. That's what I liked about it; it took itself places but we never lost control of it."

Marker wandered up and bummed a light. He looked utterly stuffed. Shirley smiled sweetly and eyed off the Showgrounds dome in which about 150 industry liggers were awaiting their prescence. Vig watched 'em all. His band. You could sense the pride.

The rest of the band were trooped off to the throng. Vig hang back and chatted another 10 minutes. Just talking himself down and building himself up to face the meet'n'greet. Come December, Garbage will be calling it quits as far as touring goes - 250 plus shows under their belts. Just one month off in a year. A month off and then straight into the studio to work up the second album.

"I reckon we have to get started by February, if we're going to have it out in September or October." The he grinned. "If we're lucky. We're not the fastest band in the studio." We ended up having a bet: that when the month off finally arrives, he'll take a week of it over Christmas then find some production project for a few weeks.

The glint in his eye said it all. "Yeah, I've got a feeling you might be right. You know, I really want to get my hands dirty again. Nothing too big. Just a a nice little job. I'm hopeless." So we talk about who. Not a Smashing Pumpkins or a Nirvana style deal. That hot little LA avant pop outfit, Eels, would be good. "I like them, that's a great record, " he says. " Something like that. It'll be interesting to see what comes up."

And so Butch Vig, unreservedly nice guy, gives a resigned sigh, "Well, I guess Id' better go and schmooze."