“I love you all, but I'm too old for this shit.” These were the last words uttered by Billy Corgan at the close of Smashing Pumpkins' intimate warm-up gig at the Viper Room last night, but the smoldering set his band dished out before leaving the stage proved the last part of that statement couldn't be further from the truth. Harnessing the heavy, hypnotic rhythms from the new lineup and infusing innovative nuances into old favorites, Corgan seemed in fact, renewed, enthused and almost child-like most of the night.
So why the riled ending?
Near the end of the set, a couple of smart-ass hecklers in the VIP section interrupted Corgan's ukelele (yes, ukelele) rendering of “Love is the Sweetest Thing,” with shout-outs for “Tip Toe Through The Tulips” and “Welcome Back Kotter.” There was chatter, too, and back-and-forth shushing. It all proved too distracting. The crowd — hardcore fans in Pumpkins tees, plus a rockstar posse that included Perry Farrell and Matt Sorum — missed out on planned closers “Today” and “Freak” according to the set-list. Thanks douchebags.
To be fair, the yelling did seem good-natured, and really, it was difficult to come down after the blitzed-out, often metallic renditions the band laid down (the current line-up including bassist Nicole Fiorentino, drummer Mike Byrne and guitarist Jeff Schroeder) before Corgan's little low-fi indulgence.
The thunderous “United States” (off of 2007's Zeitgeist) preceded the uke, and it was downright head-banging. Old faves like “Hummer” (the Siamese Dream-er may be our favorite S.P. song of all time!), “Ava Adore,” “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “Cherub Rock” were instrumentally spot-on.
The new stuff kept our attention too — intense but intricate and unbridled, as this was a proper warm-up for the band's summer tour. Corgan's vocals were also the best we've heard them in a while, and he gave us both the airy murmur and the sinister warble his best tunes always call for. He obviously enjoyed doing so too, smiling a lot (dimples!) and chatting in between numbers.
His recollection about “Perfect” actually foreshadowed the show's abrupt climax: “The first time I ever played this song live was here [at the Viper Room],” he recalled. “If you hear the bootleg it's all L.A. people talking. But it's about L.A., so it's fitting.” Yes, it is Billy. Yes, it is.
Nightranger saw Corgan catching a band on the Sunset Strip last week. Who was it? Read this week's column to find out.