BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
The “Rage and Rapture” tour should have been renamed “Damp and Delayed” for its Atlanta stop Sunday night.
The pairing of Garbage and Blondie, a joint outing that began in early July and heads into its final set of dates this week, is an inspired package, and this Chastain Park Amphitheatre date will leave both bands and fans with soggy memories.
Following a set by L.A.’s Deap Vally, Garbage, fronted by the eternally slinky Shirley Manson, edged into their performance with a mixture of new(ish) material (“Empty”) and throwbacks (“Sex is Not the Enemy,” “#1 Crush”).
Manson has always expressed her sensitivity and shared a close relationship with the band’s fans. She chatted frequently and easily with them throughout the show, dedicating “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)” to, “all the weirdos and all the forgotten ones…those of us who always think we’re not quite enough” as well as the LGBTQ community “with our love in these most testing of times…we will resist,” she said from the stage.
A fiery light show matched Manson’s scarlet hair and as she and her original Garbage mates – Duke Erikson on bass, Steve Marker on guitar and the mighty Butch Vig on drums – rolled into the new “Blackout,” a steady downpour began.
There was something beautiful about Garbage’s ethereal synth-rock as the backdrop to a cascade of white lights hitting sheets of rain, and even Manson remarked that the crowd - now dotted with ponchos and umbrellas – looked “amazing.”
The band played on through “Special,” with Manson easily hitting the 1998 song’s soaring notes, and one of their “bleak songs,” 2001’s “Cup of Coffee.” Manson exorcised her emotional demons on the moody ballad, but the band was then forced to vacate the stage because of lightning in the area.
Some in the crowd actually booed at this development. Really? Manson might be a goddess, but she doesn’t control the weather.
After a 20-minute weather delay, Garbage returned - “This is mental!” Manson said with a laugh – and rolled right back into its set with the tick-tock rhythm of their 2002 James Bond theme, “The World is Not Enough.”
Manson paced the stage under fuchsia lights for the circular disco-rocker “Stupid Girl” and launched the ironic-on-this-night “Only Happy When it Rains” as a smoky, cabaret-styled ballad that built into its throbbing danceteria version.
The band closed its performance with the potent double punch of “Push It” and “Vow,” with Manson crawling across the stage floor in her star-embossed black stockings, spitting attitude while Vig’s cymbals crashed behind her.
A mid-set delay might have rattled lesser bands, but Garbage handled the disruption with the poise of 20-year pros.
Blondie arrived for their set about 30 minutes later than scheduled, but Debbie Harry and her crew – Chris Stein on guitar, Clem Burke on drums, Leigh Foxx on bass, Matt Katz-Bohen on keyboards and Tommy Kessler on guitar – immediately gave the crowd reason to shake off the rain and dance.
In her sunglasses, black cape bearing the message “Stop ******* the Planet” and black and yellow striped bee hat (in tribute to the new “Pollinator” album), Harry cut an intriguing, quirky visual as she hoofed around the stage for the opening “One Way or Another.”
That awesome late-‘70s clash of chiming synths and serrated guitar, paired with “Hanging on the Telephone,” indicated Harry’s voice has lost some range, as both songs sounded flat and rushed.
But after a couple of solid new tunes from “Pollinator” – “Fun,” colored with swirling keys, and “My Monster,” a rock cruncher written by Johnny Marr – Harry’s voice settled, as she was obviously invigorated by the fresh material.
The unfamiliar song gave way to the deliberate thump of “Rapture,” which showcased Harry’s still-strong upper register as she twirled around a stage colored in an alluring haze of red and purple. Surely, Harry couldn’t have imagined that she would be onstage rapping the signature portion of “Rapture” at the age of 72, but she nailed it, as well as a beautifully warped cover of Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.”
About 40 minutes into Blondie’s set, at the start of the frisky new “Too Much,” the rain re-appeared, and much of the crowd disappeared.
Harry thanked those who remained – either shielded by umbrellas or so soaked it no longer mattered – as the band tackled the new “Long Time” (“I didn’t realize it was raining again!” Harry proclaimed) and the New Wave throwback “Atomic.”
The weather might have marred the concert (this was a table show, so plenty of raindrops mixed with the chardonnay), but the formidable catalogs of both Garbage and Blondie and their spirited performances salvaged the night.