These are not the pumpkins you’re looking for
I want to start this out trying to soften the statements in the title and heading. I really like Smashing Pumpkins. I’d known about them since 1993, but only that I liked their mainstream stuff that got radio play. I did my normal research for their show and had them on non-stop for two weeks. I’m not sure if I would have liked their music earlier in my life, but it’s definitely into the normal rotation now.
Then the show happened.
I did enjoy seeing Billy Corgan. I want that out there. And hearing the songs live was a solid experience. But there was some negative. I’ll get into that after the jump.
Let’s get some more positive out of the way. The young kid, Mike Byrne, was solid. I think he’s got chops and some potential. To my knowledge, Jeff Schroeder has been with Smashing Pumpkins the longest of the “new” lineup. He was also the most enjoyable to listen to. He was consistently in sync with BC on songs and had a great solo to end the show on Gossamer. He also had the whole Korean-American thing going for him, and was likely hyped up. Nicole Fiorentino was the hardest to get a read on. I don’t know much about solid bass playing, but I know when someone isn’t good. I’ll say this, the bass line never seemed out of place during the show.
Now on to BC. The guy was solid. I think he was a tad shocked at the size of the auditorium. The place was the Jamsil Sports Gymnasium and it seats about 14,000 people. It’s not the smallest place I’ve seen a big name act, but it was definitely the least packed. The other small venue I’ve been to is the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam. That place can take 5,000 people. If you ever get a chance to see a band there, do it. NIN was one of the most powerful live shows I’ve seen, probably because of the closeness of the venue.
But back to this show, and the negative.
It felt like a cover band fronted by Billy Corgan.
This just didn’t feel like a cohesive band. You could tell that they haven’t been together all that long. The entire rest of the group missed four quick transitions BC wanted to make into other songs that I picked up, and I was back by the soundboard. Like I said above, these guys seem like a solid collection of musicians. They just aren’t at the point where they click and can tear through the Pumpkins catalog.
The songs all felt very stock. I listened to mostly studio stuff in my prep for the show. The only large departure I picked up on was tempo, but with a 19 year old drummer, I’d expect a faster pace. From all the experimenting I hear Corgan is into, it was pretty vanilla. To be sure, there were one or two songs that the bandmates knew well, and they went off the beaten path on those. I just would have liked to see more from them.
I don’t usually bring up the time on stage with a band, but I’ve seen some monster groups put on some gargantuan shows. NIN did over three hours. Pearl Jam as well. Dylan was on stage forever (in a good way) this year. Dave Matthews Band has always played for a good long time. To pay the price I did for the show and not even get 90 minutes of music out of a performer like Corgan kind of annoyed me. On top of everything else, it just added to the feeling that they were a very good cover band that the front man from the original group joined for a show.
So, am I glad I went? Yes. I made a promise to myself a few years back that I’d never pass up seeing a music act that I have the slightest interest in. It’s possible that I could be willing to drop Corgan money again in a few years if this lineup stays together, just to see how they gel. But it’ll take another few songs I dig off the new album.
I did catch them getting out of the Gymnasium after the show, and BC was kind enough to sign for two people, but that was it. I think the total group size was 10 people. I would have liked to have gotten something signed, but that would have just been icing on the cake. He seemed like a nice guy and was a lot better after the show than Jeff Beck. His entire group just pushed on by, but there was also a crowd.
I saved this for last because I want to end on a high note. I was itching for a good, old fashioned earache after a concert. Between Schroeder and Corgan, I got my wish. Those two tore it up, and I got my dose of guitar rock.