Garbage offered a pop twist on grunge’s maximalist angst when they materialised in a dramatic swirl in the mid-Nineties. Like a candy-cane Nirvana, they were bleak and baroque but with tunes you could hum in the dark.
The similarity was no coincidence. The band’s drummer, Butch Vig, had produced the definitive grunge document, Nevermind. Garbage cleaved to the same format of radio-friendly ennui.
What set them apart was that, rather than putting a droopy American out front, they were led-by flame-haired Scottish singer Shirley Manson. She was a force of nature back then and remained one as Garbage (minus the recuperating Vig) played their first Dublin concert in 20 years.
This was a sucker-punch gig that leaned heavily on Garbage’s glitter-bomb second album, 1998’s Version 2.0.
Pop melodies collided with monster truck guitars. Holding it all together was the singer. With her hair tied in a terrifying bun, Manson prowled and preened, an attention-seeker with just a hint of vulnerability.
Garbage’s Electric Picnic show of last year was their first Irish concert since the Nineties. Why has it taken them so long to return? Manson explained that they had been told “nobody in Ireland wants to see you”.
That seemed hard to credit. But what mattered is that they were here and eager to put the pedal to the floor. 'Stupid Girl', their biggest hit, was deployed early, driven by the interchange between the jangle-nerved drums and the frontwoman’s booming croon.
Manson was ferocious at full tilt. But she was an endearing raconteur too and shared a charming story about her 83-year-old father having just cycled to Victoria Falls for charity. The anecdote was squeezed between 'I Think I’m Paranoid' and 'Push It'.
Those tunes were slabs of processed Nineties ennui that detonated as night fell. Even better was 'Only Happy When It Rains', s pop song bound and gagged and done up as an industrial rock-out. Fingers crossed we don’t have to wait another 20 years to see them again.