Last night was the band’s second and final showing at the United Palace Theatre in New York, and even though I enjoyed the first night tremendously, I was even more blown away when the proverbial curtain fell after the second night.
Yet, of course, as happy as I personally was with the show, others are equally as unhappy. So typical of the Pumpkins fanbase. Remember the division after Adore came out? And then Machina? Craziness.
Here’s my take on what went down. For starters, they opened with an absolutely killer “Ava Adore.” Frontman Billy Corgan, dressed all in black , paraded around the stage waving a glowing, orange jack-o-lantern from one of his long, skinny arms, looking like an eerie headless horseman (well, without the horse, that is). Had me thinking how awesome it would be to see the Pumpkins on Halloween — although in typical fashion, that show also has caused quite a stir with its wacky little setlist.
Next was a beautiful “Cupid de Locke” — all about the lyrics on this one — followed by a crowd pleaser, “1979.” I’m one of those perhaps snooty fans who thinks this is the time to grab a beer, but as I learned after night one, the crowd was thirstier for radio hits than for the $7 blonde ales on tap.
Now, having peeked at the setlists for the Toronto shows, which turned out to be identical to the New York shows, I knew that the next three songs were going to be rough for the crowd to get through: “99 Floors,” “Owata” and “Sunkissed.” I had read that fans were really pissed at all the new material being played at the shows, and so these three tunes — which are all mellow and mostly acoustic — wouldn’t be on the top of the crowd’s wish list.
“99 Floors” technically is still an unreleased song, due out on the band’s forthcoming DVD “If All Goes Wrong” on Nov. 11. But thanks to the Pumpkins’ enlightened taping philosophy, fans have been listening to the song via YouTube and Archive.org. “99 floors and still nowhere to run,” Corgan sings. At about the 2:40 mark of the song, I swear I want to sing moe.’s “Mexico” chorus: “Well I’m a million miles away from home, and I can’t find a telephone,” but I’ve been restraining myself. (Speaking of moe., damn that was a happily short hiatus!! Tour dates announced. More on that to come…) Sure this song could be a little shorter and tighter, but until I write anything better, who am I to complain?
I could see “Owata” being a hit, with its upbeat vibe and catchy guitar riffing. And while I’m not 100 percent on the lyrics (since the song has only been played four times and I can’t find the lyrics anywhere) I hear the chorus to be something along the lines of “Oh what a beautiful sight, you are, tonight … Oh what a beautiful night.” Awww, how cute, I know. But with the spectacular light display swirling around the band on stage, I couldn’t help but be moved by those words last night (even if they were only in my head!).
“Sunkissed” is a song off “American Gothic,” released earlier this year. Probably my least favorite of these three new tunes.
But just around the corner was one of the best musical sequences you could ever ask for: “Soma,” “Cherub Rock,” “Zero,” “Bodies,” “Crestfallen.” Wow wow wow wow wow. How I wish I could be back to those opening lullaby notes of “Soma,” a song that literally moved me to tears. “I’m all by myself. As I’ve always felt.” Nothing left to say, as Billy says, on that one…
As for “Cherub Rock,” I need your help. Do I get a tattoo to reflect this lyric: “Beware of all those angels with their wings glued on.” I know it’s so skeptical, but I’ve always loved that one. I don’t know. Just throwing it out there.
“Zero” rocked. “Bodies” rocked even harder. And “Crestfallen” propelled me into another realm altogether. Melancholy guitar solos weaved around each other in perfect step and a haunting “Who am I?” refrain echoed throughout the ornate music hall. It was almost too much to take; second tearful song of the night for me. It was at that point that I deemed Billy to be a masterful sorcerer of poetry and noise. I kinda like that…
“I of the Mourning” couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Drummer Jimmy Chamberlin was huge on this one, and there was a guitar exchange between Billy and Jeff Schroeder towards the end that was pure genius. The notes were bouncing around the walls of the theater, creating layer upon layer of sound that I wish they would have continued to construct just a bit more. (Hey, I’m a jamband junkie these days. I can’t help but crave the improv.)
Then came what’s probably my favorite new tune, “A Song for a Son.” It has a creepy lullaby feel to it, with what I believe is a harpsichord, and — get this! — a horn arrangement! Yep, the Smashing Pumpkins are touring with a horn section these days. Quite awesome. They also have this chic Gingger Shankar who plays a nasty 10-string violin, which apparently is one of only two in the whole world. The 10-string covers the entire range of the orchestra’s double bass, cello, viola and violin, according to smashingpumpkins.com.
OK, so at this point Billy asks the crowd how everyone is doing and he gets an enthusiastic applause back. Except, it seems, for one member of the audience who is pissed about something or other. Typical New York, right? So Billy invites this dude on stage to speak his piece. Here’s what happened:
Billy: “How’s everybody doing? You OK? Who was here last night? Greatest show ever. I’m sorry? I’m sorry? Would you like to say something? You got something to say, come say it up here. Come on, say it up here.”
Guy: “Yo, last night’s show SUCKED, man! I mean come on, man. You really gotta use a setlist? I mean Machina, Heavy Metal Machine, that’s cool, man, but….”
Billy: “You done now? You got everything off your chest or do you want to say something else?”
Guy: “Last night’s show F***** SUCKED, man!”
Billy: “Alright. Would you like your money back?”
Guy: “No. I was just kidding, man. We’re cool.”
Billy: “Alright, we’re all good. Oh, by the way, by the way. I like that song you wrote.” [Here Billy goes on to diss the guy with some excessive vulgarities, which I’m not sure I can type on this company blog, but you obviously can check out the audio quite easily. It got a laugh from the crowd.]
Billy: “Yes, the circus is back on the road! Just when you thought drama was so 90s.”
Ummm….. I’m calling shenanigans on this whole exchange. Everyone’s taking it so seriously, but come on. This had to be set up, no? Who’s with me??
After this, many fans are saying they left extremely disappointed with the rest of the show, despite a “Disarm” and a “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.”
Well, ya know, as much fun as I’m having writing this review, I can’t help but think, in typical Corgan fashion, “What’s the point?” So if anyone’s reading this and wants to know about the rest of the night, shoot me a comment. If not, well, then either no one’s reading this and I’ll have to settle for that little thing called self-satisfaction, or I’ve just done such a great job describing the first half of the show that I’ve completely satiated your appetite for Pumpkins.
Either way, smashing, baby. See you at the Mohegan Sun show! (Hopefully…)