Smashing Pumpkins Bayou Music Center May 15, 2013
This is not a Smashing Pumpkins review.
Sure, the title of this post hints otherwise, but I assure you -- the Smashing Pumpkins broke up in Chicago, on December 2, 2000. I was there.
Props to front man Billy Corgan for trying like hell to keep his dream alive, but after a while, we have to come clean and call this band what it really is: Billy Corgan and some hired guns mostly playing songs they mostly didn't write.
Harsh it may sound, but that's coming from an admitted (mostly) former Pumpkins fanatic. I need to utilize all my fingers and most of my toes to count the number of times I've seen The Pumpkins live since 1994 (at the age of 11). I have just about every Pumpkins T-shirt ever designed -- I've worn each one into the ground, and I've even got the awkward school pictures to prove it.
Of the several Pumpkins shows I saw in 1996, one in particular echoed through my mind during Wednesday night's show at Bayou Music Center. During this one, the band plowed through several radio hits early on, and saved the hidden gems and fan favorites for the encores. "See those empty seats," I vividly remember Billy saying, pointing out the newly empty seats of fans who came and instantly left after hearing the singles. "We don't play for those people," he assured us. "We play for you."
It was a starkly different scene Wednesday.
Not only were there zero hidden gems in the hit-dominated set, but there was a general lack of passion onstage. Besides some quick banter with guitarist Jeff Schroeder, the band didn't interact much.
According to Corgan, his current band members (guitarist Jeff Schroeder, bassist Nicole Fiorentino, and drummer Mike Byrne) are "capable musicians." And they are: Technically, the band is so tight they could all waltz into a studio ready to record in an instant. Without passion or the least bit of chemistry, however, this talent all gets lost in the mix.
While this tour may not have been specifically advertised as a Greatest Hits tour, it is one. To die-hard old-school Pumpkins fans, hearing radio singles all night is the same type of bummer it was in the nineties. Most recent Oceania tracks were evenly dispersed into the mix too, but they didn't reel us in. (The set lists also didn't differ much from last year's Austin show or Houston's 2010 show.)
And noticeably absent from the set list were any Gish songs, sadly.
For the most part, however, fans present seemed loyal to Corgan, raising their mega beers in support as he straddled his lengthy guitar pedals for solos. (His guitar tone is still the best around.)
Hearing "X.Y.U." reignited some wistful dedication to Corgan, hearing his awesomely fierce trademark screech. During this song, however, I noticed the backdrop screen shift to a mirrored image of the Pumpkins heart logo flipped upside-down; its significance and pseudo-irony wasn't lost on me.
Corgan poked fun at his changing fan base.
"How many old-school fans are in the house tonight?" he asked, to some cheers.
"I see you, old-school fan," he joked, laughing.
The diehard fan in me truly wants to believe my hero is happy. If playing some new songs and greatest-hits tunes makes Billy Corgan happy, then more power to him. Something about this whole act leaves me dubious, however, as I found myself dissecting some particular lyrics as Corgan belted out "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" -- "Can you fake it, for just one more show?"
Personal Bias: It's hard for me to watch this band onstage with Corgan; I admit. That said, I'd never mind hearing ANYTHING off Gish played. Or "Soma."
The Crowd: Younger than I thought/hoped they'd be.
Overheard In the Crowd: "He's still just a rat in a cage."
Random Notebook Dump: Hats off to openers Ringo Deathstarr, whose tunes reminded me of super-early Pumpkins at times. Which means they reminded me of My Bloody Valentine.
Quasar Cherub Rock Bullet With Butterfly Wings The Celestials Space Oddity (David Bowie cover) X.Y.U. Disarm Tonight, Tonight Oceania Starz Rocket Pin Wheels Ava Adore Zero Stand Inside Your Love United States
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