Live Review: Bill Corgan’s (Smashing Pumpkins’) Jazz Odyssey; Portugal. The Man. Capgun Coup, Well Aimed Arrows, Lincoln Calling Tonight…
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
I have to start this review by saying that I’m not the biggest Smashing Pumpkins fan in the world. I do have a copy of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness around here somewhere, along with a copy of Siamese Dream that I bought used at Pickles a few years after it was released. So I can’t tell you if the first hour of songs were taken from earlier or later albums or not. All I know is that I didn’t recognize many of them, not until the end, when we got a half-assed, perfunctory version of “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” that featured Ol’ Baldy looking as if he was told to play it. I wonder if the crowd was expecting an hour of Billy Corgan’s personal jams when they hustled in front of their computers two Saturdays ago to “win” their tickets. Probably not.
I will say this in Corgan’s defense — just because he continues to fly the Smashing Pumpkins banner at his shows instead of simply going on the road on a solo tour (that likely wouldn’t sell out quite as quickly, but would still sell out a venue the size of Slowdown) doesn’t mean he’s required to play the “hits” that he penned 15 or more years ago. Read Kevin Coffey’s Q&A with Corgan that appeared on Omaha.com (here). Corgan implies that he’s moved on, but is still reticent to drop the name. After all, it’s his band. “The question then becomes, ‘Why continue under The Smashing Pumpkins name?‘” he says in the Q&A. “A, I want to play Smashing Pumpkins music. B, I want to make new Smashing Pumpkins music. And C, Who are you to tell us who The Smashing Pumpkins are?” I guess the answer to C is “We’re the fans.”
The unfortunate by-product of touring as Smashing Pumpkins and not playing Smashing Pumpkins “hits” is that you’re going to disappoint the fans that paid to hear them. Corgan obviously could care less. And the fans have no room to complain. They knew the line-up, and they’ve (presumably) heard the recent, rather flat SP output. Whenever you pay to see a legacy band with less than half of its original members that is still recording new music, you’re taking a risk unless the band flat-out says it’s going to play the oldies. Is Corgan milking the Pumpkins name for profit? Who are we tell him?
Which brings us to the actual performance. Though most of the rock riff-based material was unfocused and lacked a central melody, you have to admit it was well played. Corgan’s new band is remarkably proficient — good players all. His classic Chester Cat-in-heat voice was as good as it was back in the day. And the sound was huge; painfully huge. As always, I had my earplugs. I pity those who didn’t, as the gear stacked on either side of the stage looked powerful enough to fill a good-sized theater instead of humble ol’ Slowdown. You felt the bass.
And then there were the lights. I was situated in my usual perch behind the rail along stage left, a space that affords a good view of the band (but for whatever reason, is never crowded). With all the gear stacked along the side, I couldn’t get a glimpse of the drummer. Instead, I was in the direct line of a pair of blazingly bright stage lights, like looking into the heart of a thousand suns. Imagine someone popping a flash bulb directly into your eyes, all night long. Toward the end of the set, I had moved to the back of the room and discovered that a different set of painful strobe lighting was shooting directly into the crowd from the back of the stage. A lot of people in the crowd were shielding their eyes. Fun!
Because I couldn’t watch the stage a lot of the time, I watched the audience — a mob of 30+ white people who looked mesmerized by the performance, though they never seemed terribly engaged. A few held up their hands during high points. Most just stood and squinted. After the first 30 minutes of nondescript riffage, things began to get boring, and I began to realize I wasn’t likely to hear “Tonight, Tonight,” “1979,” “Today” or Corgan growl the endearing opening line “The world is a vampire.” But toward the end, I recognized a couple songs from Siamese Dream, and my vampire wish came true during the two-song encore. The true, die-hard fans got their money’s worth.
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Busy week. Lots going on tonight.
Over at The Waiting Room, Portland psych-pop band Portugal. The Man (formerly of Fearless and Equal Vision Records, now with Atlantic) is playing with Alberta Cross. $15, 9 p.m.
Meanwhile, over at O’Leaver’s, Capgun Coup is headlining a four-band bill with Cartright, Paleo and Honeybee & Hers. $5, 9:30 p.m. More info here.
While downtown at Slowdown Jr., Well Aimed Arrows and The Prairies open for The Dead Ships. $7, 9 p.m. More info here.
And finally, down in Lincoln, the first full night of Lincoln Calling kicks off with a hum-dinger of a lineup that includes McCarthy Trenching and So-So Sailors at Duffy’s. The full schedule is here.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.