Wearing a short black skirt, and a Gaga-esque bodice with shiny vinyl panels and pointy shoulders, Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson looked every inch the rock chick as she strutted onto the Civic stage. She's hardly aged a day since the alt-rock group found international fame in the nineties - her skin still luminously white, her hair bright red, and her charisma in full force as she stalked her way round the stage. And with equally energetic performances from drummer Butch Vig, touring bass player Eric Avery, and Duke Erikson and Steve Marker both ably switching between guitars and keys, Garbage proved they're still a top class act.
Just two songs in they had the near capacity audience on their feet, which is where they stayed for the remainder of the two hour show, and the highlights came thick and fast as they wound through a setlist mixing their comprehensive back catalogue with tracks from 2012 album Not Your Kind Of People.
Heavier live than they are recorded, opening track Automatic Systematic Habit was a good indication of what was to come - pounding bass and drums, with robotic electronic layers wound through the churning guitar lines, and Manson's voice, dripping with attitude, effortlessly switching between seductive and indignant. A dazzling light show, which set off their simple, textured, black fabric backdrop, was a great addition, but it was their talent for being enviably tight, while also finding plenty of room for dark and wild abandon in their delivery that had fans climbing over seats to form a (very civilised) moshpit at the front.
Push It was an early crowd favourite, and there was a warm sense of nostalgia as they tripped through old hits like Cherry Lips (with snatches of Madonna's Erotica wound in) and I'm Only Happy When It Rains, but it was new tracks like Control and I Hate Love which really impressed. 1998 hit When I Grow Up had to be restarted, but it turned into a true highlight, sounding far more convincing in it's acerbic, howling live form than it ever did on the radio.
Manson endeared herself to the audience throughout, telling stories in that lovely Scottish accent - having her wedding ring pulled off during #1 Crush the first time they came to Auckland in 1996 (fortunately it was returned), and how various fan messages inspired The Trick Is To Keep Breathing. She also happily dedicated an encore tune (Special) to an avid fan's little sister, and showed off her softer side with tunes like You Look So Fine.
A perfect balance of professional and engaging, the band with nearly 20 years behind them proved they still have plenty to teach many younger acts.
Where: The Civic