When Smashing Pumpkins last came through town just over three years ago to play the newly opened Goodyear Theatre, singer-guitarist Billy Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin performed with a few hired hands and alternately plugged in and out during a career-spanning two-hour set that even featured a few choice covers.
Since then, Corgan has reassembled the Pumpkins with Chamberlin, original guitarist James Iha and guitarist Jeff Schroeder, a guy who started playing with the Pumpkins in 2007, and returned to the arena and outdoor shed circuit This incarnation of the Pumpkins came through town last night to play a particularly invigorating 90-minute show at Blossom that found it capably tapping into the proggy part of its sound and showing off its musical prowess.
The concert commenced with a vibrant rendition of “Today,” the shimmering power ballad that dates back to the early ’90s. Wearing baggy black pants and an equally baggy black top, the chrome-domed Corgan, who wore heavy eye-liner, looked like a cross between Nosferatu and Uncle Fester — not that there’s anything wrong with that. A true eccentric, Corgan has always followed his instincts.
A beefy guitar riff kicked off the propulsive “Zero,” a song that found Corgan singing lines like “God is empty — just like me” with a real fierceness. His young son scampered onto the stage during “Knights of Malta,” and Corgan had some good fun with the toddler, instructing him to press his guitar pedals while he soloed. Remarkably, Corgan never missed a beat, and hard-hitting Chamberlin hammered away relentlessly on the tune, giving the song its power.
During a particularly potent rendition of “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” Corgan faced off with Chamberlin while unleashing yet another gritty guitar solo that showed his debt to prog rock icons like Rush’s Alex Lifeson.
The band delivered an exceptionally noisy rendition of James Taylor tune “Fire and Rain” and followed it with an equally noisy version of its late ’90s tune “Ava Adore.”
Corgan showed off his pop sensibilities with “1979,” a song that had a particularly celebratory feel to it. “Tonight, Tonight” followed, once again showing just how melodic the band can be. During it, the house lights came on and the group basked in the applause from fans who filled about three-fourths of the venue.
Since first forming in Chicago in 1988, Smashing Pumpkins have been through numerous lineup changes. This lineup has toured and recorded for more than a year now and evolved into a really well-oiled machine that suggests the band is a force to be reckoned with; it’s a potent rock act at a time when potent rock acts are a dying breed.
The post-hardcore band AFI started the show off with a short set, and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds followed with a meaty 60-minute set that allowed Gallagher, formerly of Oasis, to play both solo material and Oasis tunes. “The first part of the set was for me, and the second part of the set is for you,” he said as he launched into a spot-on rendition of the Oasis hit “Wonderwall.”
A three-piece horn section often stepped in to assist Gallagher’s talented seven-piece band that included a range of instrumentation (including the scissors!).
Wearing a pink polo and black jeans, Gallagher looked particularly preppy, but he proved he’s still a rock star at heart as he capably led the band though songs such as the synth-driven funk/pop number “Black Star Dancing” and the rousing set-closing cover of the Beatles tune “All You Need Is Love.” “Hopefully, next time we see you we’ll be in the fuckin’ Rock & Roll Hall of Fame,” he said as he finished the set. Oasis certainly has our vote (though we’d suggest the Smiths get inducted first).
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