Garbage, Scala, London

Manson's sex appeal still rockin' after all these years
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The Independent Culture

It's become de rigueur for big names to launch a new album with small dates in London. Last night, following club-sized shows by Beck and Moby, it was the turn of Garbage to show they're still alive and kicking in front of a modest but fanatical audience of 500.

Ten years on from their debut, the Scottish siren Shirley Manson still exudes star quality and sex appeal in equal measure. The conclusion is evident from the moment they launch into "Queer", the song that established their alternative credentials in 1995. Garbage still rock.

There's a sense that this band (like Moby and Beck) are at a crossroads, after declining sales and non-musical problems - the drummer, Butch Vig, was in hospital for six months with hepatitis, and Manson's marriage broke up.

But they seem rejuvenated judging by Manson's supreme confidence on stage. Not for nothing do her older American bandmates call her "The Queen''. She even has a bejewelled microphone-stand with which to toy.

Songs from their new album Bleed Like Me, released next month, have a back-to-basics feel reminiscent of their debut which defined their eclectic rock-pop sound with industrial edges, launched them on the road to 11 million album sales, and made Manson a cover-girl.

Inexplicably insecure about her looks, and with an opinion on everything, including her own history of self-harm, Manson's assertive presence has made her the idol of choice for every disturbed Indie-girl with low self-esteem.

Tonight, Manson exudes that tantalising blend of strength and vulnerability that makes all the girls want to be like her, and all the boys want to take her home. You suspect they would be eaten alive by the singer, who plays up to her vampish image in new songs like "Bad Boyfriend", yet offers solace to troubled teens in "Bleed Like Me".

But, of course, it's the oldies that get the crowd going. "Supervixen" and "Stupid Girl", driven by Vig's machine-gun drumming, delivering the audience into the palm of her hand.

Manson announces her manifesto in "Vow": "I can't use what I can't abuse'', and runs through later hits like "Paranoid" and "Push It", before raising the roof with their best song "Only Happy When It Rains".

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