Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Not so smashing Pumpkins

Last night I went to see the Smashing Pumpkins at the Glasgow SECC. This tour is their second big tour since their reformation in 2005 and features Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin from the original line-up, with newbies in the form of Jeff Schroeder, Ginger Reyes and Lisa Harriton. The main member of the band though is obviously Corgan's ego, which is as big as ever. I wasn't sure what to expect from this gig, but having really enjoyed the Pumpkin's when I saw them on their farewell tour back in 2000, and what with really liking a large chunk of their music (Siamese Dreams is a fantastic album and up their as one of my favourites) I hoped for something good, with possible verges onto excellence. Obviously the one thing that could throw a spanner in the works of my expectations was the aforementioned ego of Corgan's - he was always going to be an arse, but just how much of an arse was the question.

One of the first things that was in general to the detriment of the gig was that it took place in the SECC. Now the SECC is a conference/convention centre and isn't designed for rock concerts. It has all the atmosphere of your Gran's living room on a wet Sunday afternoon, so it needs something really special to get you over that barrier and into a rock concert mindset. The set started off with the song Porcelina of the Vast Ocean (from disc 1 of Mellon Collie) and it was well done and an enjoyable opener (they'd played a blinding version at the last gig I saw), but it was going to need at least another 30-45 mins for me to get over the SECC atmosphere damping barrier (obviously a fault of the venue and not something the band are really responsible for - I'm sure the tour organisers chose the venue and not the band.) It was obvious from the get go that this was the Corgan and Chamberlin show - which is fair I suppose as they really are the band, with the new members being interchangeable/expendable pawns in Corgan's game. As it went on they played a decent selection of material from all post-Gish albums - there was some stuff from their most recent album, which I've not heard, but this was decent. With some of their most popular songs they'd decided to play around with the tune - I expect out of boredom from playing the same thing over and over again - but in general I didn't feel the changes worked, one example being for Bullet with the Butterfly Wings. In part this is because I wanted to hear the songs as I knew them, but also some of the time the new tunes just didn't fit. There were some very good versions of songs that weren't played around with and I did enjoy them, but nothing blew me away. Towards the end of the gig was when things started to get weird though and Corgan went into full on prog-rock wankery mode. We got over half an hour of pissing around that just got boring - and I'm someone who doesn't mind a bit of prog-rock wankery, but it has it's place and this wasn't it. From the Pumpkins I just wanted to hear some more of their songs, songs that I really like and would get me into rock mode, not some strange never ending rock soundscape. Then their was Corgan's bizarre address to the crowd in the encore, basically saying "I really like being in my band, but I don't give a shit about the fans although if you still want to give me money I'll take it". To be fair I found it quite funny and not that unexpected. They ended with Cherub Rock, an iconic anthem that's one of everyones favourites. However during the monologue quite a few people had started leaving and any atmosphere that had build up deflated quickly. The song was played well, but didn't really have much feeling.

So overall I was rather let down by the gig and won't be going to see the Pumpkins again if they play near me. There were bits that showed up the band that I'd wanted to see, but nowhere near enough. The one thing I can say I really enjoyed though was watching Chamberlin's drumming - the man can really work a drumkit and played excellently, occasionally mesmerising me with his arms flying around from tom to cymbal and back again and his impressive control of the hi-hat pedal.

[Update: Other people seemed to enjoy the gig more than me and you can find a couple of more favourable reviews here and here.]