Smashing Pumpkins Two Night Takeover
The Smashing Pumpkins (which in this iteration includes Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlin, and some kick ass backup) packed the seats at Massey Hall this week for a huge two night extravaganza celebrating TWENTY years (!!!) of the band's discography.
Having followed the Pumpkins for a long time (thanks to friends who are devout fans), I've seen the band's constantly 'evolving' sound split their audience. Similarly, this special two night affair had two very unique concert offerings.
Luckily, I got tickets to both nights and brought my camera.
Unlike many others in attendance, I learned about the split shows early on and knew what to expect over the course of both nights. It helps to overhear promoters in line talking about a generalized set list: Monday hard, Tuesday soft - definitely an accurate measure.
Monday night was for the new fans, covering much of the Machina and Zeitgeist and heavier B-side albums. However it was mixed up, and after a wicked drum solo from Chamberlain to kick off the night, Corgan went into a cover of Everybody Come Clap by The Searchers, surprising many fans and baffling the younger ones.
There were a couple old gems thrown in for good measure (Siva and Tonight) as well as mini-covers of Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane and even Rush. The diverse set list allowed new comers Ginger Reyes (bassist) and Jeff Schroeder (guitarist) to tear into their instruments, rounding out an incredibly tight performance by Corgan and Chamberlain.
But despite a sprinkling of acoustics, the tone for the night was hard and heavy with lots of distorted feedback - that is until Billy's lengthly speech and rendition of Everyone is Beautiful set to kazoos. Classic Corgan self-indulgence, but I enjoyed it.
Going into night two, I had a good feeling the older fans (those who pine for Gish, Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie) would be rewarded. By far the softer of the two performances, I found the second evening much easier to sit back and take in. With very little pause between songs, the over two-hour performance was almost like listening to an album side (only on your feet, applauding, 5 meters away from Billy Corgan).
The experience of the second night was more fan-friendly, both due to the nostalgic set list and 'less experimental' stage jams. 1979, Zero and Cherub Rock were among the favourites in the crowd, but I really enjoyed the meandering guitar peels as Corgan and Schroeder laced bluesy riffs into classic Pumpkins tracks. There also wasn't a single person sitting through the high energy tribal drumming of Chamberlin - AWESOME.
As usual, Massey Hall had some trouble containing the sheer volume and size of the sound... acoustics always seem to sound perfect at this venue, but as soon as something heavy/electric drops the sound levels go a bit wonky. Clearly it didn't affect the band, or I'm sure Corgan would have raised the issue, and very few audience members seemed to mind. The intimacy of Massey Hall is worth a few tweaks to the sound board.
Finally the evening ended on a somewhat (uncharacteristically) humble note, as Corgan expressed how proud he was of America to have voted in Barack Obama. After such a monumental show and historical political victory, there was little more to be said and members bowed off the stage one by one with very little fanfare, other than the cheers from me and my fellow audience.
For nay-sayers who may have abandoned The Smashing Pumpkins when Corgan took it solo (sort of), don't lose hope - this two night Massey Hall extravaganza not only proved that the Pumpkins can still bring a powerhouse stage performance, but also that there is a lot more creativity left to come from Billy Corgan... he should start planning a 30 year Pumpkins anniversary tour.
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