Smashing Pumpkins live at Red Rocks
Saw my beloved Pumpkins last night. Well, allow me to rephrase that. I saw the Smashing Pumpkins last night. My beloved SP weren't anywhere to be found. I should preface that I am a HUGE SP fan. I have seen them many many times over the years. I even bought Billy's poetry book so I could meet the man. The Pumpkins are back together, but with a different band. The only hold outs from the original line up are singer/guitarist Billy Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain.
If you know the story of the Pumpkins, you know those are the only two that count. Billy Corgan writes all the songs and performs all the instruments on all the band's recordings. Except drums, of course. There isn't a better or more powerful drummer in business today than Jimmy Chamberlain. If you are a rock dork like me, you are jumping up and down yelling 'Neil Peart, Neil Peart!'. Yes, I put Jimmy in that class of drummers... along with Danny Carey from Tool.
So, replacing bassist Darcy Wretsky & James Iha shouldn't have been a big deal. I mean, they really weren't that good. Somehow, though, the heart of the band laid with those four. What I saw last night was really the Billy Corgan band. I mean, they played Smashing Pumpkins songs, but the sweetness is gone.
That is my big beef with the new album, the sweetness is gone. Billy tries to hard to prove to us how he can still rock (Metallica made a similarly epic error with the unlistenable St Anger years ago). Billy, and the band, totally rocked last night. Jimmy Chamberlain bored a hole in my skull last night.
So, what is the sweetness I miss? Think 'Luna', 'Mayonnaise', Snail', or 'Stumbleine'. The reason why Siamese Dream changed my life was because of not just the power... but the vulnerability. That is missing off the new disc, and was missing last night.
So, let's get down to the nuts & bolts of the concert. Firstly, it was at Red Rocks. Red Rocks truly is the most amazing concert venue in America. It's more than your see on DVDs, because they don't show the Denver skyline that sits right over the stage. I skipped the opening band 'The Bravery'. Why? $7 beers inside, $1 beers outside in my cooler. The show opened with a song from Zeitgeist. The show was approx half new stuff and half classic, and it ran exactly two hours. It was supposed to run longer, but Billy was very cold. I know this because in the middle of a Eruption style solo during 'Heavy Metal Machine' he said "it's too fucking cold to play". I knew that would be their last song, and it was. Not sure why someone would book an outdoors show in the Rocky Mountains in October, of course it is going to be cold.
Stand out songs for me were 'Drown', and a solo acoustic '1979'. Crowd favorites were 'Today' and 'Cherub Rock', but they felt forced to me. I don't have the whole setlist here, but it was almost the same in every city. So, if you head over to Smashing Pumpkins.com, there are setlists over there.
There was a one song encore, and this is where I think the show was cut early. Through the night, Billy was uncharacteristically quiet. Normally, Billy is chattier than Bruce Springsteen doing a 'Storytellers'. This changed at the end. Billy talked for a bit. His first comment was classic Corgan: "On many nights, I feel the band is better than the audience. Of course, I never tell them that. Tonight, though, you guys were better than us and we thank you." Then, he talked baseball for a bit.
It seemed kinda strange to talk about baseball at 11:30 at night as we all tried to stay warm. However, our Colorado Rockies made the play offs yesterday. Billy is a known Cubs fanatic, and he said congrats to us and that he would be at the game today. He should be easy to pick out, it is a nearly 7 foot bald dude who will be dressed too warmly.
It was still a great night. Hearing the Pumpkins at Red Rocks is just a fine thing, but I don't think they are good enough to play stadiums anymore.
** Post script and late edit. I forgot to mention the light show. There was this over the top light show that was nothing but a distraction. I like ambience and mood, which Red Rocks provides plenty of. However, that light show game me tourettes. It was so busy, it honestly seemed to cover up the music more than complement it.
The setlist is in:
Bullet w/ Butterfly Wings
Bring the Light
Stand Inside Your Love
Glass and the Ghost Children
1979 - solo acoustic
Heavy Metal Machine
On the Road Again -Canned Heat Cover
Encore: Cherub Rock