“It’s not easy for women in rock,” Garbage singer Shirley Manson told the capacity crowd at Orlando’s Hard Rock Live on August 9th. “You have to put up with a lot, but those who can deal with it are some of the toughest women.” She then spoke about what an honor it is to be touring with two other female-fronted rock bands, especially rock icon Debbie Harry. The three acts on the bill took three distinctly different approaches to rocking out, with each highly effective.
Deap Vally began the night with a short but lively bare-bones rock performance. The duo, featuring Lindsey Troy on guitar and vocals and Julie Edwards on drums, ripped through a brief set of all upbeat songs. Troy’s deep, growling power chords blared over Edwards’ pounding drums, the duo blazing through high-octane garage rock while barely taking time to breathe between songs.
Garbage had a more theatrical approach, with a dazzling light show and a setlist that plunged the depths of their brooding industrial sounds and soared to the heights of their alt-rock anthems. Duke Erikson’s rumbling basslines propelled songs like “#1 Crush” and “No Horses” while Manson prowled the stage. On more upbeat guitar rock songs like “Sex Is Not the Enemy,” Manson strutted, danced, and owned the stage, belting out her husky vocals while being blasted by Steve Marker’s guitar.
Garbage’s set, which featured a good representation from each album and a good mix of fast and slow songs, saved its best for last. The set’s last five songs were all singles, highlighted by an energetic rendition of “Push It” and a dynamic performance of “Only Happy When It Rains.” For the latter, the band played the first verse soft and at half speed, with Manson’s voice a light croon as she sat on the drum platform. At the second verse, Marker’s distorted guitar crashed through and the band tore through the rest of the song in its standard time. Throughout the set, Manson’s fiery stage presence anchored the impressive performance.
Contrasting the first two acts, Blondie played a much more subdued set with little flare or drama. Debbie Harry had a commanding presence onstage, but one characterized by steadiness more so than energy. Harry, like the rest of the band, was less concerned with showmanship than with simply standing onstage and playing great songs. And great songs they were. Beginning with their hard rock hit “One Way Or Another” and closing with “Dreaming,” drummer Clem Burke’s best performance, Blondie’s set was eclectic enough and hit-heavy enough to satisfy even casual fans.
From the grooving disco funk of “Rapture” to the sing-along crooner “Tide is High,” Blondie showed that there are many different ways to rock. “Call Me” was the band’s best performance of the night, Harry’s voice booming despite her 72-year-old vocal chords over Chris Stein’s palm-muted guitar shuffle.
Blondie and Garbage are two of rock’s most diverse bands, each drawing inspiration from various musical styles that wouldn’t seem to go together but somehow work within their compositions. On this night, along with Deap Vally, these tough women owned the stage and then some.