First night: Shirley's not so easily disposed of

Garbage Wembley Arena London
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The Independent Online
GARBAGE ARE the thinking man's Republica. Both bands oscillate between Britpop, rock and grunge and are headed by commanding female vocalists with a penchant for controversy. But where Republica's frat-house rock is of fleeting interest, Garbage have displayed a depth and sincerity that has ensured lucrative longevity.

Sadly, the uplifting vigour found on their recorded material struggled to translate in the live arena. Vocalist Shirley Manson's usually fierce vocals were all too often lost amid her bandmate's tumultuous fretwork and the echoing acoustics of Wembley Arena. The introduction of a percussion section, occasional techno rhythms and exuberant lighting arrangements served only to highlight the limited nature of Garbage's repertoire. In the end it was up to Manson's trademark magnetism to infuse the proceedings with the required verve.

Manson is at her best when in her dominatrix mode. As she stomped up and down the stage in combat pants and big boots, pointing at the boys in the front and entreating them to bow down before her, she was the epitome of the 1990s femme fatal: strong, sexy and relentlessly mouthy.

But it seems that this traditionally fiery redhead has grown tired of her public persona.

On the surface, their recent album Version 2:0 seems a polished affair that stuck close to the band's winning formula: memorable melodies, gutsy guitar riffs and plenty of rock posturing. But further inspection unveiled an angst-ridden side that was glaringly apparent in tonight's performance.

Despite Manson's icily confident demeanour, she displayed a darker side fuelled by paranoia and false doubt. Over and over again she referred to how her band has been abused by critics - at one stage inviting them to "kiss my arse" - and expressed unhappiness at the muted reception of their last album. "Why do I feel that the world conspires against me?" she complained.

Neither did Manson seem at ease with her audience. On one occasion, as she changed instruments, a hush fell across the auditorium which was suddenly broken as she bellowed "why are you so quiet? What's wrong with you?"

Thankfully, the arrival of Chrissie Hynde on stage put an end to Manson's discomfort. She was transformed as she grinned from ear to ear and dropped to her knees in reverence, declaring her idol "the real deal". The pair of them performed a rabble rousing duet of "Only Happy When It Rains" and the crowd roared in delight.

This was the kind of treat that befits an arena show. The real deal indeed.