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, 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:
United States
Bullet w/ Butterfly Wings
Bring the Light
Stand Inside Your Love
Tonight, Tonight
Doomsday Clock
Glass and the Ghost Children
1979 - solo acoustic
To Shelia
Ava Adore
Heavy Metal Machine
On the Road Again -Canned Heat Cover
Encore: Cherub Rock


Kimber said…
Thanks, I thought my review was a little too harsh. So I'm glad you felt the same as me. I HATED the light show. I love going to a concert to see the expressions on everyone's faces. With the light show its hard to do. If I wanted to see light I would keep my $60 and shine a flash light in my eyes while listening to the album.

Final comments-Was it just me or did Ginger and Jeff seem like they were really scared to mess up or scared of Billy? It also seemed to me that Lisa has a crush on him.
Anonymous said…
I was at this Pumpkins show sporting my "dead"-ication by wearing my Phil and Friends shirt from the awesome Phil Lesh show just the night before at Red Rocks.

The Pumpkins show was good but not the best show I saw this summer. For someone who last grooved to the band's latest music back in the mid 90s many of the songs were unrecognizable, but not bad. The highlight for me was the acoustic version of 1979...I hardly have words to describe how incredibly awesome this song is, studio or live acoustic.

The light show was interesting to say the least. I didn't find it annoying but I was also up in row 56 where the lights weren't shining right in my eyes. Only the Police (who I also saw in Denver at the Pepsi Center) had a light show that was more elaborate.

I totally understand the thoughts behind the post that complained about the Pumpkins music being less "vulnerable" than their prior work. Their epic and best album Siamese Dream did a great job of going from your ears to your mind, and then ultimately your heart. I miss those types of songs a lot, but I understand that being vulnerable enough to write songs like those isn't healthy long-term. Not hearing the intensity of old in today's shows just makes their earlier work more special.

Overall I'd give the show a 7.5-8 out of 10. After all, aside from the coldness the weather was AWESOME. Try seeing a late season show at Red Rocks with rain!
Anonymous said…
Of course, the thing you have to remember is that these songs played are largely selected to flow with the feeling of "Zeitgeist". An aesthetic feel has to be IS art, after all. Since the new album is mostly hard and brooding, it only makes sense that they would leave the sensitive works off the list.

As Billy has pointed out "This isn't a reunion tour". This is not a stroll down sentimental street for fans who miss the original line-up; this is the new Smashing Pumpkins, and Billy chose to introduce them in this new era as a hard hitting rock band. After all, isn't that what stubborn fans have been complaining for for over a decade now? Go back to rock only?

I appreciate the sensitive stuff quite a lot myself, but I know Billy's intentions (he's stated them) on the next album will run more conceptual, and likely less heavier than Zeitgeist. I'm willing to wait for that.

Although if "Gossamer" is a better indicator of direction, I say forget sensitive; give me some more of that classic-rock inspired guitar shredding and face melting that plays out for 15-25 minutes.
Eric said…
I’ll start by saying to I agree somewhat with your observation that the performance and new album lacked “sweetness.” You mentioned a few tunes that embody that vulnerability but I was surprised you didn’t mention “33.” Love that song, too bad they didn’t play it. Maybe Billy has lost some of that young person angst?

For the record, I liked the light show.

You talked about Red Rocks but didn’t mention the SOUND! It was truly incredible- an observation myself and a few people around me made several times throughout the night. I’m sure the lack of wind helped. I’ve sat in similar seats (row 32) before and not heard sound as good as that night.

Jimmy and Neil Pert are both amazing drummers stylistically, but Neil definitely pulls ahead on the technicality front.

About Billy’s comments- I think the “crowd was better than the band” comment was kind of an apology for ending the show early. He did seem sincere though and I don’t take Billy as someone who bullshits his audience. There was also another point where he said, “As you know, I’m a man a few words,” to which some people cheered/applauded and others just stood there. Then he said “guess my jokes aren’t as funny at high altitude.”

Your blog reads like someone who didn’t enjoy the show, save a few moments. Overall, I feel the opposite- I enjoyed the show, save a few songs I’m not that into.

Oh, and to Kimber: always assume that any female member of any band has, or is sleeping with the lead singer.... :)
Anonymous said…
the sweetness you miss is called "chemistry." after x^3+4x^2-3 years of playing with the same people, you can't expect a band to come back with a new line up and be in their essence, the same band.
D-Rek said…
Was there supposed to be a DVD released of the show? But had too many issues it looked like.

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