By uncompromisingly kicking-off this small venue gig with the 10-minute epic “Glass And The Ghost Children,” Billy Corgan and his Smashing Pumpkins crew set the tone for the rest of the night — they may be a huge rock band, but they’re still going to do whatever the hell they want to, when they want to and how they want to.
Regardless, two-plus hours of music and 20-some songs (considering the last third of the show deteriorated into a noodling session of cover songs and medleys) the Smashing Pumpkins proved they were not only ace rockers, but also ace facilitators of what could be described as a drunken goth-rock parody of a Promise Keepers convention.
Whether it was through pummeling the crowd with a sped up “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” or through the irony-fist-pump posturing of “Heavy Metal Machine,” it was obviously Lord Billy could do no wrong this night. It also would seem that we were witnessing the next step in Billy Corgan’s evolution from angsty grunge god to a mellower Buddha rock god, if you’ve got the comic book sensibilities to follow.
Corgan’s profuse bowing to the audience, “god blesses” and such would seem crass coming from someone of his elevated status if he hadn’t seemed so damn genuine when he was doing them. And it was ultimately this genuine affection which helped ensure the Pumpkins got over this night. The actual show was somewhat spotty, what with the aforementioned noodle-jam off going on between Corgan and fellow guitarist James Iha and the Pumpkins’ collective slavish devotion to meddle and alter their songs.
“Zero” was viciously rendered, but “Cherub Rock” seemed to be one of the few songs where the Pumpkins acted like they were just going through the motions.
Perhaps the highlight of the night came when Corgan performed a solo acoustic cover of Rush’s “Limelight.” All I’ll say about that one is that when you think about it, it’s shocking how many people know all the words to the average Rush song.
When Iha did a twisted take on Them’s “Gloria” instead as “Canada.” (“C-A-N/A-D-A/Cannnn-ada”), the crowd were more than happy to take the bait, not in small part because it gave them an excuse to shout their catcall flatteries to new bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur.
Much less the foil-for-the-frontperson she was in Hole, Auf Der Maur still managed to blow a few kisses and throw out the goat horns on multiple occasions.
Much less flattering however was what could be called the “Tribute To Howlin’ Wolf Set To The Tune Of Crawling King Snake.” This probably represented the musical low-point for the evening, despite the fact a sizable segment of the audience were actually howling along with Corgan when he’d “HOOOWWWLLL!!” into the mic.
Still, despite whatever low-lights there were, for any devotee of the Pumpkins, this was undoubtedly a night of music bliss. They pulled out old classics like “I Am One” and blistered through new tunes like “The Everlasting Gaze.” And the bonus outpouring of affection from Corgan to the audience proved that love is truly all you need.
This story was originally published March 22, 2000 via Chart Communications