Garbage has always come off as much as a project as a band, and that was never more obvious than at Thursday’s sold-out Palace show, which occurred nearly two years to the day after the band’s first, more engaging appearance at the venue.
In an effort to re-create the heavily layered sounds of its two studio albums, the Wisconsin-based group has sacrificed almost entirely the notions of spontaneity, electricity and interaction, instead producing a sonically pleasant techno-pop concert (despite the high-end-killing acoustics of the Palace) that packed little punch.
Sultry, waifish singer Shirley Manson remains the focal point of the band. Sexy in a trademark skimpy black dress, Manson got by on her looks and her provocative lyrics about obsessions, “golden showers,” co-dependence, and various other drug and sex references.
But there was little passion or edge from the Scottish vocalist to back up the surface tease — she could take a lesson on those fronts from Debbie Harry, Chrissie Hynde or Romeo Void’s Deborah Iyall, all of whom she otherwise borrowed from. The faceless backing band provided little excitement either, and was often nearly lost in the convoluted mix of samples, loops and drum tracks.
The evening’s saving grace was the handful or so great songs in the group’s modest catalog, including the high-energy rocker “Special,” from the new “Version 2.0” (Almo Sounds) album, the set-closing KROQ hit “Only Happy When It Rains” and the mid-set “Stupid Girl,” a fave with all the young Shirley wanna-bes in the house.