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Garbage /IO Echo @ Riviera Theatre

Garbage w/IO Echo
Where: Riviera Theatre
When: April 3rd, 2013
Grade: IO Echo: 4.5 out of 5 meatballs || Garbage: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and Photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

It had been almost exactly 15 years since I’d last seen Garbage onstage. To say that I saw Garbage at a creative and commercial peak would be an understatement. Version 2.0 had just dropped a month before I saw Garbage perform at the Hurricane Festival in Scheeßel, Germany, and they were riding high off of their larger-than-life new single, “Push It.” Seeing Garbage back then at the age of 13, it was clear this was a band poised to take over the world head on. Walking up to the Riviera Theatre this past Thursday evening, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would they cater to their subpar latest album or pull a bunch of deep cuts and oldies out of their bag of tricks? Luckily for myself and every other old school Garbage fan, it was more of the latter.

Before I even dig into Garbage’s set, it begs mentioning that their tour opener, IO Echo, kind of blew the headliner out of the water. I’ve seen The Big Pink before and am quite familiar with the style of comforting noise Leopold Ross is capable of, but I’d never seen or heard anything like this before. Cascading sheets of luscious guitar noise rippled throughout the venue accompanied by frontwoman Ioanna Gika’s affirmative yet soothing vocals, and I was sold right away. If any woman is a frontrunner to take over the Siouxsie Sioux throne of bombastic, big room vocals… Ms. Ioanna of IO Echo is ready to reign over her kingdom of noise-pop. Everything is right with what IO Echo is doing: rich, overdriven and reverb-soaked guitars that would make Kevin Shields raise an eyebrow, listless and searing vocal delivery from a frontwoman seemingly enchanted by the prowess of Stevie Nicks and stage presence of PJ Harvey. Even better, it’s all filled out with just enough hooks and melodies necessary to make even the most devout pop music fanatics pay attention. Try to not whistle along to “When the Lilies Die,” and you’ll see what I mean. If there’s any good in this world, we’ll be seeing IO Echo at a venue as big as the Riviera… only they’ll be headlining their own sold-out show.

After IO Echo laid waste to their stage and left the crowd in a haze of fog and strobe lighting, it was time for the anticipation in the room to grow to a peak for Garbage to take the stage. My own personal anxiety to finally see them live again was through the roof. I had cheated and looked at a few recent setlists from the week before, and I had a slight idea of what to expect, but Garbage are among those elite rock bands who don’t always like to do the same set every night. Such couldn’t have been more apparent at this particular Chicago date. Opening up with “Bad Boyfriend,” Garbage filed onto the stage and ignited a frenzy amongst the crowd. It was immediately apparent from their first few songs that this band had lost no flair over the years.  

What really made this show special, even aside from Garbage’s fiery performance, was their setlist.  Before diving into my personal favorite deep cut from their self-titled debut album, Shirley mentioned that they hadn’t performed “As Heaven Is Wide” since the latter half of the 90s. As excited as I was to hear this song live though, the fuzzed-out, bass-driven riff that propels the song along fell a bit flat and ended up signifying the possible reason why we’ve never heard this song live before… it just doesn’t hold up onstage. The setlist followed suit with the old stuff in mind as we were treated to fan favorites like “Cup of Coffee” from Beautiful Garbage and “Hammering in My Head,” along with the show closing “You Look So Fine” from Version 2.0. Rounded out with classic singles like “Vow,” “Queer,” “Milk,” and “Cherry Lips,” this was a set to remember from an even more memorable live band. As good as the band sounds on record, their show begs to be seen by all. Few other rock bands have the ability to reel you in and keep your attention as well as Garbage, and that just might be why they’re still packing venues now in 2013. Here’s to another 15 years of good music and an even better live show!

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