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Pop Music Review

Goodwill and Good Acts Buoy Not So Silent Night

December 15, 2001|NATALIE NICHOLS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

'Twas 12 days before Christmas and all through the house, the Shrine Auditorium's audience was hardly quiet as a mouse. Which on Thursday was just right, because this holiday concert was Star 98.7 FM's Not So Silent Night. With such treats as an absolutely kicking Garbage set and new material from Alanis Morissette, how could fans keep still?

Reflecting the radio station's demographic, the crowd was predominantly female, as was the bill, which also included Nelly Furtado and token man band Better Than Ezra. Although too often there's a get-it-over-with feeling behind such shows because the main purpose is to boost the host station, each artist took time to express holiday goodwill. None simply went through the motions but instead delivered the expected hits as well as something fresh.

Despite the station's inevitable self-promotion, the atmosphere was genuinely festive. There was even a cozy patriotic moment when a fireman crooned the national anthem.

After that, Furtado cranked the energy level up to 11 with songs from her album "Whoa Nelly!" Dashing around the stage and into the audience, the Canadian singer-songwriter pinged from the syncopated pop of "Baby Girl" to the airy, hip-hop-flavored ballad "I'm Like a Bird." Just for fun, she took a stab at Missy Elliott's ubiquitous "Get Ur Freak On," much to the crowd's delight.

Sensitive postmodern-rockers Better Than Ezra were the only ones to offer an original Christmas song (or one of any kind). Though agreeable enough, there wasn't much memorable about such thrashy-melodic heartland-pop tunes as "Extra Ordinary" and the new single "Closer." Singer-guitarist Kevin Griffin was amiable to a fault, telling anecdotes about his time in L.A. to illustrate such selections as "Misunderstood" (about the travails of dating an actress), but his talk became tiresome.

Morissette divided her 40 minutes between fresh material from an album due in March and such hits as "Thank U" and the now-classic vengeful romantic reproach "You Oughta Know." Such new songs as "21 Things" updated her trademark folky-funky sound with a sleek, straightforward rock sheen, while a tune called "Narcissus" had an underlying psychedelic drone.

Like the best present saved for last, Garbage bestowed on the crowd a muscular, 50-minute set chock-full of the techno-rock quartet's hits, as well as selections from its new collection, "Beautiful Garbage." Voraciously animated singer Shirley Manson playfully embodied the title of the band's recent tune "Androgyny," wearing mannish trousers, suspenders, a white tank top and a glittery choker, with her trademark red hair turned into a white-blond punk pompadour.

Although the performance was mostly a one-two punch of tough-sexy anthems such as "Push It" and the crunchy new "Shut Your Mouth," Manson and company weren't afraid to slow things down, and the torchy ballad "Cup of Coffee" was a highlight. Which quietly proved that despite Garbage's instantly recognizable sound, it's still one of modern rock's most nuanced and versatile acts.

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