Written by Misha Scott • Photography by Chris Molina, Live Nation • October 24, 2016
The opening notes of Garbage’s set pulsed like a heartbeat. Every head across Hollywood Forever Cemetery's massive lawn nodded in time as we waited to see what the '90s alt-rock legends had in store for us. It was the last date in Garbage’s North American tour and, as lead singer Shirley Manson noted wryly, the first show the group had ever played among the dead.
Things kicked off with an explosive performance of “Subhuman.” There was a brief chill in the mood when Manson had to ask one fan to leave for throwing beer at her, but she turned the tense moment into a lesson in empowerment. “You picked the wrong girl, on the wrong night, in the wrong political climate,” she shouted, reminding us all of the importance of demanding respect. On this note, the band launched into “Stupid Girl,” a crowd favorite.
Looking around, I was reminded of how legends like Garbage unite generations. To my left was a head-banging middle-aged couple with fanny packs and feather boas. On the right, a 30-something man gyrated in a hot pink belly shirt. Behind me stood a quiet 15-year-old wearing black lipstick, chains dripping from her Hot Topic mini-skirt.
Manson noted the crowd’s diversity midway through the set, remarking with wonder, “Even though we’ve never met and probably never will meet, we’re sharing the same lifespan. And for some reason you all feel a connection to us. I don’t know what that weird magic is, but it’s really powerful.” She dedicated “Even Though Our Love Is Doomed” to fans everywhere.
Graciousness and positivity were the focus throughout the show. “Hate will take us down the toilet,” she reminded us. “Let’s fight for the rights of others – because when we fight for other people’s rights, we’re fighting for our own.” The next song, “Sex Is Not The Enemy,” went out to the LGBT community.
Young and old, gay and straight, goth, punk, and soccer mom - we all screamed, cheered, jumped, head-banged, and danced with abandon through the entirety of Garbage’s 90-minute set. They covered all the classics (“I Think I’m Paranoid,” and “Only Happy When It Rains” were standouts) as well as plenty of material from their acclaimed newest record, Strange Little Birds. The crowd’s enthusiasm was a testament not only to Garbage’s raw power, but also how, especially in times of division and uncertainty, a night of love and rock ‘n’ roll can be cathartically healing.
By the time the band finished their generous three-song encore, I had lost my voice from shouting and an earring from dancing too hard. I doubt I was the only one.
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