Better than...going to a Zwan show
It's been a big week for Generation X'ers. First Jane's Addiction played at the Ford Theatre, and last night was the first show of the Smashing Pumpkins' latest world tour, which finds them playing in the smaller venues of their early years.
The Pumpkins brought an arena-ready production to The Wiltern, which featured a huge kaleidoscope backdrop. Though it was cool looking, it apparently didn't much impress the sold-out crowd. In fact, for much of the night most folks barely moved, due to the odd set selection by frontman Billy Corgan.
In fact, the act's bald leader singer was alone in his enthusiasm for the songs they were playing, making it nearly impossible for the fans sporting Smashing Pumpkins gear to engage with the music. What they heard was almost entirely obscure Pumpkins tunes. On one hand, it was nice to see Corgan take the Van Morrison route by playing whatever he deemed fit, but on the other hand the crowd was bored and alienated and many headed to the exits early.
The set was career-spanning, but it focused mainly on unfamiliar early tracks, and songs off of their upcoming album that hasn't yet been released, which he promises will be the "greatest fucking rock 'n' roll album of all-time." All wasn't lost, however. Catalog favorites like "Muzzle," "Silverfuck" and "Cherub Rock" elicited the loudest cheers, probably because the audience was excited to hear something they finally recognized.
Usually at a Smashing Pumpkins show, you would expect to a mosh pit or two. But last night fans were more concerned with not spilling their $12 beers, rather than losing their shit. In 1996, this would have never happened. Fans would be flying all over the place in the pit.
Though technically sound, the latest Pumpkins incarnation lacks that special chemistry from before, which made them one of the most popular bands in the world. Though the original Pumpkins may not have been musical virtuosos, they were known for their fun live shows filled with back-and-forth energy between band and audience. There was none of that last night, unless you count the one time Corgan nodded his head and pointed his water bottle at us.
Finally, on the final song of the night, "Bullet With Butterfly Wings," the band took the crowd where wanted to go the entire show. It's one of the band's signature songs, and the energy level went from about a 2 to 10. People were jumping around and screaming the words, even taking over the last chorus from the singer.
It spoke to what might have been. As the last of the original Pumpkins, Corgan has a responsibility to give his fans at least a few more songs they're familiar with. If he doesn't, then this tour could be as big of a dud as Zwan.
Personal Bias: Yes, the majority of the Pumpkins' music was written and recorded by Corgan, but it's just not the same without the formative lineup.
The Crowd: Late 30s and early 40s couples. Moms in tight jeans and risqué tops, and goatee-sporting dads with vintage "Zero" t-shirts over their button downs.
Random Notebook Dump: The band was selling a recording of the show afterwards, which was cool, but made people wait over 30 minutes to zap it on the soundboard. Oh, and it cost $20, lame.
Set list below
Frail and Bedazzled
Through the Eyes of Ruby
My Love Is Winter
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Bullet With Butterfly Wings