Wind-blown shock red hair, fishnets and a snarl that still remembers mid-90s rage or maybe calls on it anew – how has Shirley Manson not aged a day? We know that Butch Vig hasn’t. He’s still the monstrous heartbeat under the peeling guitars and insistent rhythm that defined a decade or more of sound. It’s enough to make one remember that it’s been 20 years since the 90s reigned over the airwaves.
But then, there’s her. Her moves are as youthful as ever they were. And for all the “rage” she’s touring with, she seems to be having the best time ever. Feet on pointe – even in silver high tops – and with every back bend she has, she’s a tornado on stage, still. She prowls. Is this the Debbie Harry effect? She seems immortal. And one can only use Harry or Nicks or Lennox or Jagger as the possible equivalent, so adept is her stage presence.
They power through hit after subtle hit, packed-house crowd moving with each megahit they know, and following the band through new material. She has the stage banter down and could school new acts on how to engage an audience, whether familiar or newly-met (the Scottish accent doesn’t hurt at all, needless to say). It all belies more Jagger than Manson, yet there she stands, the new rock immortal.
And then she crawls, literally, off stage at the end of the main set. She’s done, the crowd is led to think.
But, behind the shadow of a light or two, she pops up and strides backstage, confidently and profoundly, a triumphant woman still in her prime. “Bend me, break me,” she begs in,”I Think I’m Paranoid,” the crowd-pleasing 90s anthem everyone was waiting to hear. It isn’t possible. She can’t be broken, and the set Garbage just finished was proof positive.
And after a short stage turnover, suddenly – with a blast of static and a roar of guitars – the icon takes the stage. Wearing an insect mask (promoting the recent release of “Pollinator”) and designer hose on platform shoes, it’s clear that, if Shirley Manson and Garbage are heirs apparent, the queen of rock and roll is a long way from resigning her throne.
New tunes are sprinkled through the set, but the crowd hungers for the royal jelly of the set, losing its collective mind for legendary hits like “One Way,” “Call Me,” and “Rapture,” There is every reason to hold Harry up as fashion, punk and even iconic rock royalty. She struts, every boy the 70s trendsetter, as though the years between only refined the edge elements of Harry and her band. The night ramps up with every new tune, incorporating more soaring guitar solos and harsher drum beats, Harry’s voice slicing through it all to connect with her adoring crowd.
A nod to rock immortality, “Everybody must get Stoned” gets the punk treatment, to the glee of the house. She knows her place and lords over it. The visuals, whether static and old tv test patterns or fashion shoot features or syncopated schizophrenia, compliment the breakneck pace that a __ year old woman should be able to pace set. But the years melt as she tears into the new material, milking pauses for audience endorsement and approval that is more than warranted.
In contrast to most shows where new material is introduced to an audience in anticipation of a greatest hits night, Blondie does not let the set or the audience rest, bringing high energy to all of the Pollinator infusions, forcing the crowd to assimilate the band’s vision quickly.
And just when one thinks the night has reached fever pitch, Harry leaves the stage to her band and, new members and old, thy find yet another frequency, a stronger sound, still. Tommy Kessler’s guitar screams through “Atomic” and makes just the right amount room for “Heart of Glass” to rule the night. This is craftsmanship at its finest. The mask is gone and with it the signature sunglasses, and revealed is a true original.
Before they’re done, they have one last thing to prove. They shred the Titanic classic, “My Heart Will Go On,” with nary a scrap of irony. It’s loud, fast, defiant and in your face. It is hard to find a better metaphor for a band that’s been so influential for so long.
Mid set, Harry repeats, over and again an urgent reprise. “Do you love me now?” the single from Pollinator asks. The crowd response makes everything abundantly clear. Yes, Debbie, we love you. Now and forever.