Already home to two great mid-sized theaters (the Akron Civic and the E.J. Thomas Hall), Akron now has a third venue in the mix. Last night, the newly refurbished Goodyear Theater opened its doors with a sold out show featuring ’90s alt-rock acts the Smashing Pumpkins and Liz Phair. You can see a slide show from the concert here
Updates have been made to the early twentieth century building in Akron’s East End complex, Goodyear’s former headquarters. The venue now features a new sound system and a remodeled lobby. The sightlines in the venue are terrific — even the balcony seats offer great views of the stage. The Pumpkins (singer-guitarist Billy Corgan, drummer Jimmy Chamberlain and a few hired hands) put the sound system to a test, alternately plugging in and unplugging during a career-spanning two-hour set that even featured a few choice covers. Throughout it all, the sound was crisp.
In the past, the band has reveled in creating a wall of sound, but last night’s tempered performance showed how Corgan has softened. The newer approach suits him well. Corgan hasn’t brought his Pumpkins to town in a few years, and the capacity crowd gave him a hero’s welcome, standing to applaud early in the set. “I forgot how rowdy you mother fuckers are,” said the chrome-domed Corgan, who wore a form-fitting black suit. “I can only compete so much,” he said as he held up his acoustic guitar.
He played the first few songs of the set on acoustic guitar without accompaniment. A soaring rendition of “Tonight Tonight” sounded sharp as did his cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” which suited his brittle voice perfectly.
“Be patient,” he said, anticipating that the crowd might get restless during the show’s acoustic segment. But Corgan’s backing band slowly assembled on the stage to deliver “the Siamese suite,” a collection of songs from 1993’s Siamese Dream
that featured “Today,” “Spaceboy” and “Soma.” That segment concluded with Corgan playing “Disarm” alone on keyboards, delivering the song as if it were a funeral hymn.
The concert’s second half was hit and miss. Synthesizers kicked in for the Goth-tinged “”Sorrows (in Blue),” which sounded like a bad Bauhaus song, but Corgan and Co. replicated “1979” perfectly, and their soaring rendition brought the audience to its feet. Corgan showed his softer side again with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and even dug deep into his catalog to play “Malibu,” a song he co-wrote for the rock band Hole.
While Corgan appeared completely comfortable performing on stage with or without a band, the same couldn’t be said for singer-songwriter Liz Phair. While Phair casually bantered with the audience and shared a number of anecdotes, her marginal guitar playing and weak vocal performance suggested a lack of confidence. Despite that, her set concluded on a high note with a elegant cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” a song that served as a nice tribute to the late singer.