The good music loving folks of Adelaide often rightfully complain about the dearth of international touring acts making it across from the eastern states to play here – then, perversely, we get days like last Sunday, where live music fans had to make the choice between seeing The Cult at HQ, The Troggs at The Gov or Garbage playing their relocated ‘Day On The Green’ gig at the Thebarton Theatre. Go figure!

Those hardy few who sacrificed their Sunday roast and made it to Thebarton for Adalita’s dinner time opening bracket were loyally enthusiastic in their support of her droning brand of Stooges inspired noise rock. Her band took no risks and delivered a short set of six primal, feedback drenched, tunes which unfortunately sounded a little strained and unconvincing in the echoing emptiness of a dark hall on a sunny afternoon.

The Preatures followed a short time later, by which point the crowd had swollen to at least a couple of hundred. Izzi Manfredi commanded the stage with her mix of Debbie Harry, Chrissie Amphlett and Tina Turner moves and mannerisms. Where Adalita had brought gloom, The Preatures brought light, and much rejoicing ensued.

Starting off with Somebody’s Talking and their latest single I Know A Girl, the band hit the stage with a verve and energy that put the rest of the evening’s acts on notice. The bar was going to be set high.

Over nine rapturously received numbers, including a terrific version of The Divinyls’ Boys In Town, The Preatures confirmed their position as one of Australia’s great contemporary live acts.

The Temper Trap were also warmly received initially, but their set was strangely lacklustre and the crowd’s interest quickly waned. A couple of girls standing near me decided that catching up on emails was a better option than giving the band their attention. Conversations started up around the auditorium.

This is a situation no self-respecting live band should tolerate. They need to get rid of the soporific by-the-numbers quality of the bulk of their set and get serious.

Unfortunately, despite sounding crystal clear and playing note perfect renditions of a number of their album tracks, the fact is The Temper Trap lack impact.

Dougy Mandagi’s voice was impressive in its strength and clarity, particularly when his falsetto had to compete with the collective power of the rest of the band, but the inescapable truth is – so many of their songs simply lack hooks. In fact, a number of them are downright dirge-like and dull. Visually, the lighting, too, was annoying in its near funereal gloom and darkness.

It is telling that the crowd really only came alive when The Drum Song started, and stayed with them as their signature song – the Kids In The Kitchen soundalike – Sweet Disposition kicked in at the end of the set.

When Garbage hit the stage a few minutes after their scheduled start time and launched into Supervixen the crowd had swollen in size and the venue was three quarters full, mostly comprising Shirley Manson devotees. The air was filled with shrill cries of ‘I love you Shirley!’ as the Scottish indie icon prowled and circled the stage like a caged lioness before ripping into ‘You Think I’m Paranoid’.

The band were not really at their best though. There were some strangled notes popping out from all over the stage as they hurried to hit their groove. Manson, at one stage, stopped the band, after a muffed intro, and admitted as much – that they were all feeling a little bit harried and nervous because of the ‘crazy curfew’ that was imposed on them by the venue.

As it was, all it took for her to regain poise was a quick shot of scotch and she was soon back in the game – and back on form.

After Stupid Girl from album number one, and Trick To Keep Breathing from album number two, things began to roll as the crowd really fired up. Empty from the new album served as the entrée to a bracket that included Special, #1 Crush, Doomed and Bleed Like Me. By the time the first few notes of Cherry Lips began everyone was in full party mode.

Vow and Only Happy When It Rains finished the set with a reminder of how strong a debut their first album had been.

Thanking the crowd profusely for choosing to spend their concert-going cash on their show in these hard financial times, Manson brought the band back on for a quick encore of Push It before saying her final goodbyes.

The lasting impression of this show will be Manson’s warmth and honesty as she basked in adulation from her sincere local admirers which really seemed to move her. She sang her heart out for her fans, confessed details of a bleak adolescence where self-harming was a regular occurrence, and pleaded with us all to reject a world filled with inaccurate and misleading media constructions of happiness and conformity, but above all she reminded us all what a talent she is.

Not your normal ‘Day On The Green’ fare then, but perhaps all the better for not having a few hundred wine-soaked sots falling about everywhere you look!

Garbage are not rubbish!

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By Ken Grady