From out of the dark, Garbage reboots ‘Version 2.0’ in Reno

Shaun Astor / Tahoe Onstage

Garbage’s Shirley Manson was shocked by how the band was received in Reno.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Shaun Astor

It was a strange year in 1998. Bill Clinton was president, the average cost of a gallon of gasoline was less than $1.25, a company called Google was founded, and the band Garbage released its second record, aptly titled “Version 2.0.”

Garbage is composed of a group of musicians from Madison, Wisconsin, one of whom produced Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album, plus Scottish vocalist Shirley Manson. The album name was a reference to the novel new technological electronics landscape emerging as the internet began to expand, and the band’s music incorporated that atmosphere in its instrumentation and production style of rock, grunge, techno and electronica.

We’re now 25 years as a band, much to everyone’s surprise … including our own.”

On Tuesday night, Garbage brought its 20 Years Paranoid Tour — marking the 20th anniversary of the band’s “Version 2.0” album —  to the Grand Theatre inside Reno’s Grand Sierra Resort.

“Maybe I should explain what the fuck’s going on here tonight,” Manson told the crowd in the middle of playing through a set ist that would not just include singles from the record, but also featured every song, B side, and outtake from the Version 2.0 sessions that were eventually included on the record’s deluxe anniversary re-release.

“No one ever thought we were the ones who would survive. We’re now 25 years as a band, much to everyone’s surprise … including our own.” Manson said, laughing.

It was a laugh that took some warming up to achieve. The band took the stage with each of its musicians wearing black, shrouded in a foggy haze and silhouetted by backlighting, while Manson alone received the spotlight. The first several songs passed with her simply walking the stage, singing and making zero acknowledgment of the audience. Sound bites from movies such as “Natural Born Killers” played when the stage fell dark between songs, and the band’s sonic broodiness reigned.

Following the single, “Special,” the band strayed from the record and played their “The World Is Not Enough” theme song for 1999’s  James Bond film of the same name. About six songs in, it was only then that both the frontwoman and the crowd really started warming up to one another. Progressively, her tone warmed as she spoke, her movements onstage became more fluid, and the Grand Theatre became louder.

Drummer, Butch Vig, and keyboard and guitar players Duke Erikson and Steve Marker continued to stay in the dim background, with their spots being illuminated only at a couple instances of Manson introducing each member or describing their sometimes tumultuous past together. It may have been this tumult underlying the music that made the moments of smiles more endearing.

Capping off the set with “You Look So Fine,” Manson called for the band to stop playing, complaining that the sound levels in her earpiece were preventing her from singing the vocals as well as she would like to. After solving the issue, the musicians restarted the song, and her vocals went flawlessly into a mashup with Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.”

Upon returning to the stage to perform a three-song encore, Manson pre-empted the music by stating her apologies: “I had a bad attitude this afternoon.” After explaining the reasons were out of their control, she thanked Reno, saying it was the band’s first visit to the city, and thanked the crowd for its enthusiasm and changing her mood.

“At 52 years old, you continue to learn. You got to keep an open mind and you have shocked me.” Another rare smile flashed across her face as she stood in the spotlight, introducing the song “The Trick Is To Keep Breathing”.

Although the set left out almost all material that wasn’t from the “Version 2.0” album, including some of the band’s biggest singles, Garbage thanked the crowd for sticking with them, through a night of songs that had never seen live performances before this tour. Well known for the angst underlying its music, the band’s tension at the start ultimately led to an awe-inspiring apex by the night’s end.

— Shaun Astor Shanu Astor / Tahoe Onstage

About Shaun Astor

Shaun Astor cites pop music singers and social deviants as being among his strongest influences. His vices include vegan baking, riding a bicycle unreasonable distances and fixating on places and ideas that make up the subject of the sentence, "But that’s impossible…" He splits his time between Reno and a hammock perched from ghost town building foundations. Check out his work at www.raisethestakeseditions.com

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