By Jane Roser
When you pair two of the fiercest female rock legends in history you wind up with nothing short of a show that is like a chainsaw through butter-dazzling, seductive, and visceral.
Co-headlining more than 25 dates this summer, the show at Wolftrap in Vienna, Virginia Thursday night was their 20th tour stop, but considering the amount of energy and confidence that permeated both performances, one might have thought it was their first.
Wolftrap gained a reputation over 40 years ago as being the first national park for the performing arts. It sits on 117 acres in Fairfax County and the Filene Center, where Thursday’s show was held, is an indoor/outdoor arena which seats over 7,000, both under cover and on the lawn where attendees bring blankets, picnic baskets, wine, and hopefully an umbrella since it rained for most of the evening. The venue was packed and I loved seeing folks of all ages and demographics-some were huge Blondie fans, some were there for Garbage, some for both, but all seemed to enjoy the entire show (the performance lasted until 11pm and I noticed a sweet elderly couple leaving the arena holding hands. I hope that will be me one day). The line for the merch table was the entire length of the stage, which was longer than at any other show I’ve ever attended and I’ve been going to Wolftrap for over 25 years.
The opening band was a female blues-rock duo from L.A. who came out barefoot wearing red and blue sequin jumpsuits with fringe that matched the long red tassles hanging from the mic. Lead singer/guitarist Lindsey Troy has a powerful, distinct voice reminiscent of Joan Jett and drummer Julia Edwards head-banged through each song without missing a beat. Their girl-power themed songs were fun, charming and set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Wearing a black and white zebra-striped Mod mini dress, black honeycombed tights, and white-rimmed sunglasses which contrasted against her bright red hair, Garbage front-woman Shirley Manson went straight into their latest single “No Horses”, an apocalyptic, tempestuous song which laments the day when “there will be no cops, just men with guns” and ends with an eerily quiet “shhh”.
“Sex Is Not the Enemy”, from Garbage’s fourth album Bleed Like Me, was inspired by the 2004 Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction controversy. Manson felt the media was focusing more on Janet Jackson’s exposed breast than they were on the Iraq war. The song was performed under flashing red lights and a screaming audience-it’s hard not to love Manson-she’s the epitome of a whip-smart badass lady, I certainly wanted to be her back in the 90s . I’ll never forget my boss coming to the store I managed right after their first album was released-she saw my Garbage cd case next to the rest of the music we played in the store and freaked out when she saw the band name. She played a few songs, loved it and never mentioned it again.
“#1 Crush”, from the soundtrack to Romeo and Juliet is the song I used to dance to at DC’s nightclub Tracks. Manson is mesmerizing and especially holds you under her spell when she sings while walking around the stage in a circle, which she did for several songs, including this one.
Before singing “Empty”, Manson speaking in a thick Scottish brogue exclaims, “what a spectacular venue-holy cow! It is an honor to play this extraordinary venue. This is a song off our new album about complete emotional desolation and I hope you enjoy it.”
Later, the audience jumps to their feet when they hear the first bars of the hit song “I Think I’m Paranoid” off their Version 2.0 album and Manson dances at the front of the stage in front of a girl who’s having the time of her life.
“I have to give a huge shout out to whoever gave me the blanket with my mother and husband and dog on it-I nearly burst into tears when I saw it in my dressing room-it was such a labor of love and I can’t thank you enough. This next song is for you”. She sings “Cherry Lips” as a fan is lightly blowing her hair and smoke around; the lights are dim, the stage is backlit so you only see the band’s silhouettes . Manson drags the mic around stage, with the red tassels sweeping the floor-it was just such a cool image.
After performing “Special” Manson says “this next song is the song that decides if you’re into us or not. If you like this song, then you get us.” She chastised an audience member on his phone and then began crooning, “baby, baby can you breathe like me.”
These long beams of light shot from the stage and for some reason I thought it looked like a James Bond title song video. I must be psychic because Manson started singing “The World Is Not Enough”, the theme song to the 1999 Bond film. The lights started spinning at the end of the set and the audience started clapping along to “Stupid Girl”, “I’m Only Happy When It Rains” and “Push It”. They screamed with excitement and sang along. Manson put her sunglasses back on, outstretched her arms as though she was blessing the crowd and ended the set with a bang. This was the rage and the rapture came next.
The house lights came on and the speakers started playing Gene Kelly’s “Singin’ In The Rain”, which was appropriate because it was pouring.