Smashing Pumpkins

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Concert review by Natalie Homer

Tuesday 3rd November 2008  – Massey Hall, Toronto

I would be reluctant to write the following about the Smashing Pumpkins except it wasn’t them that played last night at Toronto’s Massey Hall (fast becoming my favourite venue in Toronto). Billy Corgan, 41, has long lost the ‘rage’ and is in fact in the middle of a full blown mid-life crisis. I know this because last night he ego-tripped through 150 minutes of experimental bedroom trance in an outfit that reminded me of Gargamel (evil smurf wizard) and an attitude that would rival Little Lord Fauntleroy on the day daddy refused him his weekly allowance. The good news though is that he appears to have found Buddha; this message he conveyed to us through the power of dance and the tamborine.

I don’t deny that as artists evolve they want to shake off the shackles of stereotype; break out creatively and come of age. Eddie Vedder has done it and so had Chris Cornell but here’s the key – they haven’t forgotten their roots or what it is that first endeared them to their adoring fans. Corgan, and in some ways I wouldn’t have expected anything else, basically stuck two fingers up to his fans and they in turn played Tetris on their mobile phones and texted their friends (I’m not even joking) when it became apparent that there were to be no old favourites in last night’s playlist. I lie he played DISARM off the seminal SIAMESE DREAMS album of 1993 and for many that was the high-light of the concert but didn’t justify the night out.

By contrast he played a wonderful acoustic version of Fleetwood Mac’s LANDSLIDE that actually made me cry and wish I was at a Fleetwood Mac concert instead.

I will never deny him the originality and utter talent that he clearly possesses. His voice is and always will stand high above alt.rock voices including Cobain’s because when Corgan sings it’s like having someone scratch that awkward itch on your back.

Last night’s main problem was that it gave too much credence to the music made after the group’s peak, at the expense of some of the group’s better material. The band (Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin the only original members) created a layered, powerful sound driven by swirling, distorted guitars no less ambitious or indulgent than the stuff they produced in the early 90s but this time the songs/performance just didn’t cut it.

The single G.L.O.W off his latest EP AMERICAN GOTHIC has appeared in Guitar Hero. Like Billy says himself in this month’s Rolling Stone Magazine – “You don’t need to play Guitar Hero when you ARE a guitar hero.” It’s true but where’s the fun in that?