Concert review: Garbage and Blondie – Rage and Rapture tour at the Mystic Showroom – Prior Lake, MN – July 21, 2017

Published by JB on July 23, 2017

Review by Renee Schaefer.  Photography by Jeffrey Becker.

The Rage and Rapture tour features a powerhouse cast of legendary and extremely influential artists in Blondie, Garbage, and John Doe and Exene Cervenka of X. The tour stopped at Prior Lake, Minnesota’s Mystic Lake Hotel and Casino on Friday, July 21 for a show in the 2,100 capacity Mystic Showroom.

Blondie

Blondie’s set started out with a bang after a very quick changeover between Garbage’s set and theirs. They took the stage to the sound of bees buzzing, with three large LED screens showing abstract black and white images of TV static, and immediately dove into one of their biggest hits, “One Way Or Another.” The crowd jumped to their feet and rarely sat down for the rest of the night.

Hearing Blondie play, it was easy to forget that they’ve been around since 1974. The two founding members, Debbie Harry (vocals), Chris Stein (guitar), and long-time drummer Clem Burke, still sound fantastic. The lineup was rounded out by very accomplished musicians Tommy Kessler (guitar), Matt Kats-Bohen (keyboards) and and Leigh Foxx (bass). This is an extremely good live band. The set included most of their big hits as well as four songs from their new album, “Pollinator,” which fit perfectly alongside their back catalog.

Harry was a delight to watch. She shimmied, she swayed, and she marched to the beat. During the feel brief pauses of the set, Harry spoke with understated delivery and a dry sense of humor. The band visited Prince’s house on their day off and she joked that “Chris wants to live there, I can’t imagine why. But we did take the tour.” Following “Call Me,” Harry took a moment to talk about something that she and Blondie are extremely passionate about – honey bees. “I have to take off my little friends here,” she said as she removed her honey bee headband. Blondie are donating profits from the tour to the bees and she urged fans instead of buying her bee-themed gifts to give that money to the bees instead. (Go to Blondie’s website for more info on their Bee Connected campaign.)

Despite the amount of attention Harry has received over the years, Blondie is truly a band, and Harry took every opportunity to step to the side of the stage and give her bandmates the spotlight. She did this for the jam portion of “Rapture” as well as Kessler’s guitar solo in Atomic, where he prowled the full span of the stage, tapped the neck like Eddie Van Halen, threw picks into the crowd, and even slung his guitar behind his head as he played.

Burke is a very exciting drummer. In addition to his technical prowess, he is also very much a performer. If you were able to peel your eyes away from Harry, you saw him raising his arms high as he bashed his kit and constantly twirling or tossing his sticks in the air. Blondie took a few moments at the end of “Pollinator” single “Fun” to give Burke the spotlight with a drum solo. He showed off his plethora of skills while old photos and video of him played on the screens behind him and then launched into their #1 hit, “Call Me,” from the 1979 album, “American Gigolo”

It was clear throughout the set that Blondie love performing. This was no more apparent than at the end of the regular set with “Heart of Glass.” Harry had a huge grin on her face as she watched the crowd, while a giant glass heart rotated and shattered on the screens behind her. She kept turning the mic over to the crowd for the “oohs and woah wahs” and telling everyone how beautiful they sounded. Blondie closed the night with two of their biggest hits, “The Tide Is High” and “Dreaming,” and sent the crowd off wanting more but also on an air of hope. Dreaming is free, after all.

Set list:

• One Way Or Another
• Hanging On The Telephone
• Fun
• Call Me
• My Monster
• Rapture
• Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35 (Bob Dylan cover)
• Fragments
• Too Much
• Long Time
• Atomic
• Heart Of Glass
• **Encore break**
• The Tide Is High
• Dreaming

Garbage

After only a few minutes break between John Doe and Exene Cervanka’s set, Garbage took the stage to a roar of applause and cheers. The crowd filed in and took their seats, somewhat caught off-guard by the extremely short break after the previous set.

Garbage opened with their brand new single, “No Horses,” a pulsing, industrial-tinged song that deals with themes of corruption, violence and a vision of the apocalypse in a world devoid of horses. They kept the mood dark and brooding for the first few songs, next playing early hits and fan favorites, “Queer” and “#1 Crush.” They slowly turned up the energy (perhaps building for a bit too long) until finally launching into noisy anthem “Empty” from 2016’s Strange Little Birds, complete with audience singalong, and then 1998’s thunderous “I Think I’m Paranoid.”

Vocalist Shirley Manson commanded the audience’s attention without demanding it. Her pink-sequined evening gown sparkled in the lights as she prowled, jumped, pranced, strutted, and flung herself around a large percentage of Mystic Lake’s enormous stage. Guitarists Steve Marker and Duke Erickson flanked Manson, playing off the energy of Manson and of audience left and right, respectively. Drummer Butch Vig and touring bassist Eric Avery (ex-Jane’s addiction) held down the rhythm section, with Vig acting as conductor from behind his electronic kit and Avery grooving in the background.

Garbage, who often enthusiastically acknowledge and appreciate those who came before them, paused for a moment to do the obligatory thanking of the other bands on the tour. Manson gushed, “We get to come to work every day with gods and goddesses. If nerds like us can get on board with this caliber of acts, anything can happen.” She also gave a nod to The Cure, who they pay homage to on “Blackout.” When she introduced 1999’s hit “Special,” which borrows a line from The Pretenders, Manson talked about taping for Top of the Pops, where Garbage found themselves on a stage opposite The Pretenders and Chrissie Hynde. “To say I shat myself is putting it lightly,” she said, before dedicating the song to a long-time fan attending her 50th Garbage show.

The audience was treated to a special guest appearance during “Only Happy When It Rains,” sometimes lovingly called by fans “Only Metallica When It Rains” due to this live version’s Metallica-esque downtempo first verse with minimal instrumentation. About mid-way through the song, a bat joined the band, flying high above the stage and the front few rows of the crowd (perhaps riding high upon a deep depression). The bat couldn’t have picked a better moment. Shortly after, the set closed with an extended version of “Vow,” with Manson writhing and rolling around on the stage, even growling like a metal singer as she lost herself in her free-form lyrics. Unfortunately, there was no encore (Garbage isn’t doing any on this tour), but the extremely short break between Garbage and Blondie kept the crowd engaged.

Some observations on the audience….This was a 100% seated show, which is unusual for Garbage, who usually play to a standing room configuration that suits them much better. The middle of the front section on Marker’s side was particularly enthusiastic and both he and Manson played to that area quite a bit. [Author’s note: I nicknamed them the “fun section.”] Throughout the set, a particularly enthusiastic Garbage fan on Marker’s side frequently danced across the approximately 8-foot-wide front aisle, at one point bobbing and weaving to avoid the two security staff members as she danced. Marker seemed to appreciate her efforts and near the end of the set, he shook her hand while security loomed right next to her and escorted her to her seat. She was a dancing ninja and fun to watch.

Set list:

• No Horses
• Queer
• #1 Crush
• Empty
• I Think I’m Paranoid
• Cherry Lips
• Blackout
• Special
• Bleed Like Me
• Even Though Our Love is Doomed
• The World is Not Enough
• Stupid Girl
• Only Happy When it Rains
• Push It
• Vow

John Doe and Exene Cervenka

Since no professional photos were allowed for John Doe and Exene Cervenka, this review will have to do. Doe and Cervenka are co-founders of LA bluegrass punk band X. They played a short, bluegrass-infused acoustic set for the early crowd, which already filled about 2/3 of the room. They looked more like country artists than punk rockers, with Doe in a black suit, pressed white shirt, and skinny black tie playing a well-worn blonde Guild acoustic, and Cervenka in a long-sleeved black dress with white lace collar and cuffs, big front buttons, and black belt.

The crowd mostly sat quietly while Doe and Cervenka cranked through an assortment of X songs spanning their 40-year career and a couple of country covers, which was appropriate for the format. There wasn’t much time for talking during their set, but both Doe and Cervenka each spoke briefly, Doe to crack a joke “Anyone play in a bluegrass band? Nevermind,” he said, and Cervenka to introduce “Skin Deep Town,” which she said was written about Spring Break in Florida from a 40-year-old’s perspective. What really came through during the set was how clever the X lyrics are.

After a short but sweet 25 minutes, Cervenka thanked the crowd for “looking at us and we’ll see you later.” X will return to Minneapolis for a full band show in September.

Set list:
• Burning House of Love
• Because I Do
• If I Were a Carpenter [Johnny Cash cover]
• Give Me Flowers (While I’m Living) [Flatt and Scruggs cover]
• White Girl
• Skin Deep Town
• In This House I Call Home
• The New World

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