“I had to stop the show and ask these two boys if they were gonna kill me”: Garbage’s Shirley Manson on the craziest things she’s seen from the stage

Garbage live in 2021
(Image credit: Jeff Hahne/Getty Images)

As anyone who watched the video of her admonishing two punters who were having a brawl in the crowd towards the end of last year can testify, Shirley Manson likes to keep a close eye on what’s going on in the audience at a Garbage gig. Perhaps that’s because she knows how strange things can get out there. A few years ago, she recounted to this writer some of the oddest sights she’d witnessed from the stage.

“I’ve seen some right weird shit,” she stated. “For a while, people used to come to our shows dressed as animals. I believe that’s a sexual thing, I can’t remember the name for it now. There was that going on for a bit, which I always found a little disconcerting. I once thought two boys were gonna kill me cos they had bandanas up over their face and they just stood totally immobile looking at me. I had to stop the show and ask them if they were gonna kill meI couldn’t bear the suspense any longer, I had to stop the show. I was like, “listen, you guys, you look really scary, you’ve got bandanas on your face, are you gonna kill me?”. They were like, “no!”. It turned out they were straight edgers and up until that point I didn’t even know what straight edge was.”

Despite that instance, the most unusual occurrence she’d taken in from the stage went to an occasion when she spotted a man having a nap during the gig. “We were on tour in America and it was an outside show in Chicago and there was a man on a sun-lounger fast asleep throughout the whole show until I drew attention to him and the crowd started laughing at him,” Manson remembered. “He woke up for one brief second and sat up and looked a little dazed, and then went back to sleep. I took it on the chin. I’m lucky, I’m old now and I’ve practically seen it all and I do not ever come to a show now and expect people to be really into it. I’ve had so many reactions, I’ve had abusive reactions, really loving reactions and that complete ambivalence so I don’t take it personally anymore. I just think it’s funny.” 

Beware, then, if you’re planning on going to see Garbage anytime soon – Shirley Manson is watching and she expects you to be on best behaviour.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.