Concert review: Smashing Pumpkins at Rams Head Live
Halfway through the Smashing Pumpkins' show at Rams Head Live last night, singer Billy Corgan asked the crowd what year it was.
"1979," the audience shouted, begging for the band's 1996 hit. It was not to be.
"Yeah, it sure ain't 1993," Corgan replied.
Corgan refuses to be labeled a relic, and last night's intimate club date was no hit parade. The '90s alt-rock pioneers never actually played "1979," though they did do "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" and "Tonight."
The show, which lasted more than two hours, was advertised as a tour through the Pumpkins' catalog, and that's what the band delivered. It was not a concert for the casual Pumpkins listener -- it was a performance for true fans ...
Here's a link to a photo gallery from the show.
The Pumpkins offered songs from nearly every album, starting with the lackluster new "Astral Planes." It was not the best way to get things rolling. The four players found their footing with the second song, "Ava Adore," settling into a dark, heavy groove.
With his shaved head and half-soft, half-searing voice, Corgan looks and sounds just like he did when the band broke out nearly 20 years ago. He's the only original member still touring with the group.
At the tender age of 20, drummer Mike Byrne was probably still in diapers when the Pumpkins released 1991's "Gish." Last night Byrne handled the sticks with skill, though he did rush several songs. Sporting a thick headband, he could have been the karate kid. Bassist Nicole Fiorentino had the low end on lock, and guitarist Jeff Schroeder offered solid fills and the occasional solo.
Make no mistake, it was still Corgan's show, and he snatched every opportunity to wail on his guitar, at times overpowering the rest of the band. It was a night of guitar worship, with fans bowing at the altar of The Bald One. Corgan was loving it. Early on, he stood with arms outstretched, assuming a benevolent, Jesus-like pose, facing his adoring fans.
Angst-ridden '90s tracks like "Cherub Rock" were just as biting and prescient now as they were when they first came out. One of Corgan's biggest strengths is his ability to be angry and vulnerable in the same breath, and that ability was on full display last night. Many of the newer songs, such as "A Song for a Son," lacked the same spark and momentum.
Something must have been in the air, because the crowd was feeling feisty. A few guys in the back were hurling obscenities and weird, funny heckles, and when Corgan paused in the middle of "Bullet With Butterfly Wings," the audience started booing. Guess they didn't want the tune to end. (It didn't.)
After playing "Perfect," Corgan and Schroeder started noodling around, teasing Jimi Hendrix songs and talking about the guitar legend. A fan near the front chucked a bottle or cup of water at the stage, aimed at Schroeder. Schroeder responded with a stream of insults, challenging the fan to come up on stage and fight him.
Keeping true with the night's theme, the Pumpkins' final encore was the epic, 18-minute song "Gossamer." The unreleased track began with sizzling guitar riffs, dissolved into a plodding stew and foamed up into a shred fest before Corgan finally put it to bed. The average Smashing Pumpkins fan were left scratching their heads while the hard core Pumpkin-heads were loving every guitar lick.
The show started at 9:53 p.m. and ended at 12:04 a.m.
1. Astral Planes (new song)
2. Ava Adore ("Adore")
3. Hummer ("Siamese Dream")
4. A Song for a Son ("Teargarden by Kaleidyscope")
5. Today ("Siamese Dream")
6. Bleeding the Orchid ("Zeitgeist")
7. Eye ("Lost Highway" soundtrack)
8. Stand Inside Your Love ("Machina/The Machines of God")
9. Bullet With Butterfly Wings ("Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness")
10. United States ("Zeitgeist")
11. Widow Wake My Mind ("Teargarden by Kaleidyscope")
12. Perfect ("Adore")
13. Cherub Rock ("Siamese Dream")
14. That's the Way (My Love Is) ("Zeitgeist")
15. Owata (new song)
16. Tarantula ("Zeitgeist")
17. Tonight ("Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness")
Freak ("Teargarden by Kaleidyscope")
Moby Dick tease -> Gossamer (unreleased)
(Baltimore Sun photos by Josh Sisk)