The Smashing Pumpkins Ruined My Joy, Again, Last Night at The Palladium

Categories: Last Night

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Jeremy Ruggaber

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

In 2000, a 15-year old Gavin persuaded his dad to buy him a ticket to see the Smashing Pumpkins on their farewell tour. They were to play the cavernous NIA in Birmingham, England. Gavin had not been to see many concerts before. In fact, his previous concert was Jamiroquai. Gavin had listened to Siamese Dream for all of his childhood years, and had in fact learned to play the beginning of "Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" on piano. He had a "Zero" T-shirt. Upset as he was about Machina, the Smashing Pumpkins were still Gavin's favorite band. He had looked forward to this chance to see them for months and months.

Eight songs into their farewell to all of Birmingham, Billy Corgan left the stage for a costume change. When he came back, he announced to the crowd that, in fact, we hadn't cheered enough, and that he would be leaving and taking the band with him. Forty-five minutes into a very expensive arena gig, the Smashing Pumpkins left. Part of Gavin's childhood left with them.

Fast-forward to 2013. Gavin has seen many more concerts. He has many other favorite bands. The Zero T-shirt was discarded on that day in 2000. Nevertheless, part of Gavin was kind of excited to see the Smashing Pumpkins again. Maybe they could undo the 13 years of hurt. Maybe Billy Corgan could make up for that day. Maybe, just maybe, they'd play all the hits, and Gavin could forgive them and be released from his teenage torment.

Not a chance.

A lot has happened to Corgan since that farewell tour 13 years hence -- there was Zwan, there was some other stuff where he wore a hat, there was a wrestling promotion, there was a furniture commercial. Eventually, Corgan got "his band" back together using an advert in a newspaper. Only Jimmy Chamberlin responded, James Iha having gone on to better things than being an egomaniac's understudy by collaborating with A Perfect Circle, and D'arcy Wretzky having disappeared somewhere uncertain.

With Chamberlin having departed for a second, possibly third, time in 2009, the Smashing Pumpkins became Billy Corgan and three people he found. Weirdly, all of them fit the archetype of Smashing Pumpkins members -- an attractive female bassist, an Asian-American lead guitarist and a drummer who looks a bit like Jimmy Chamberlin. Now, finally, Corgan had a version of the Smashing Pumpkins he could fully control, all of whom were just delighted to be there.

Have you ever seen the show Dollhouse? Well, in that show, you can hire an empty vessel of a person, a blank personality and mold it entirely to your desires. I am of the belief that Billy Corgan went to the dollhouse to re-up on Smashing Pumpkins members. Not only was there no charisma whatsoever on the Palladium stage, even the stage banter, of which there was virtually none, was incredibly deferential to Corgan. It really is like a man living out his former glories with shells of what came before. It's really a show just to prove to the former members that he still can. Iha was an absolute virtuoso guitarist, adding layers, sweep and majesty to early Pumpkins work, arguably more so than Corgan. Chamberlin was a whirling dervish of a drummer, ready to add a fill or an incomprehensibly complex backbeat.



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78 comments
nihilist74
nihilist74

Iha was an absolute virtuoso guitarist, adding layers, sweep and majesty to early Pumpkins work, arguably more so than Corgan. 

Iha and D'arcy were not good enough musicians to play on the recorded albums.

doosty
doosty

And showing up at 8:30... The Pumpkins don't give press passes anymore.  That means Gavin was in the back of the back of the back.  I showed up 5 hours before doors and hung out with people that showed up 17 hours before doors.  The 25 people that bought $400 dollar VIP tickets and showed up 3 hours before doors got front row...  The first 10 people in line had seen the Pumpkins multiple times, loved the new stuff and 6 of them traveled over 5 hours to be at that gig. 

I was front row and it blew my face off.  Could you even see the stage?

That Birmingham, England show was their 5th to last show EVER.  And it was James Iha that was refusing to do encores around that time...  All well documented.

I've been to over 100 rock shows and I don't go unless I have heard AND APPRECIATE the latest album.

And ultimately it's about the performance.  Billy's voice is better than ever.  His guitar playing was spot on from my vantage point (front row).  Nicole is perhaps the best living female bassist.  Watching her play the bass lines to the Oceania stuff (which she largely composed and played on the record) was a true joy.  Billy has said Jeff is the "technically" better than he is and the unaccompanied solo at the end of Zero proved that, and Mike... Mike is successfully filling the shoes of one of the greatest drummers that ever lived.  All of the new members were big fans before they auditioned for their positions.  They all want to be there.  This review failed to mention much negative besides "phoning it in"... They played complex progressive rock for 2 hours and didn't make any mistakes.  And from the front row they were most definitely there to rock.

This was my 7th Smashing Pumpkins show (Mellon Collie, Adore, Machina, Teargarden and 3 Oceania tour (including 1 VIP).  This show in Dallas was more "Greatest Hits" than any show I've ever even heard of the band playing, and they sound and look better than ever.

doosty
doosty

Lies.  I looked up the show he said was only 45 minutes long in Birmingham, England on setlist.fm and the Pumpkins played 16 songs including long tracks such as "Glass and the Ghost Children", "Blue Skies Bring Tears", "Rock On", and "Porcelina"... The majority of the songs played that night were also singles.  I was at the Dallas show and it was spot on... The band sounded great.  P.S. Anyone who calls James Iha a virtuoso is an idiot.

NeonBeginning
NeonBeginning

I remember an interview of many years ago, with Billy Corgan unleashing on The Rolling Stones for seemingly making albums to support world tours instead of the other way round. Well, if only that 90's Billy could see them now..

Jessica Welker
Jessica Welker

this article is pretty harsh. even for the old fans like myself, it was still amazing to see them up close and live and playing the songs that i grew up with. i had an amazing time! you should not be "glad to have missed this show" based on this one scathing review. billy corgan may be narcissistic, but he is still an amazingly talented musician.

janerleblanc
janerleblanc

As soon as you said "costume change," I rolled my eyes. What kind of rock band has a freaking costume change? Sad.

Nairb Retseik
Nairb Retseik

That's about the way I felt at the Scott Weiland show at the House Of Blues. It was terrible. It was like seeing a bad Las Vegas lounge act covering STP. And Scott was ripped out of his gourd. Complete disappointment.

Rudy Cruz
Rudy Cruz

Aw what!? Thanks for the heads-up.

dfwheathen
dfwheathen

I was curious how they would be live these days, which is why I clicked the link. Half of the article is whining about his childhood. I'm sorry, you lost all credibility at that point.

Jennie Harding
Jennie Harding

Got to see them several times in '90s. I'm very grateful for that now.

darquescience
darquescience

The show was great. I love the new album and I enjoyed hearing sped up versions of the classics. The reviewer lost me when he complained about Ava Adore intro being backtracked. The intro is a sampled break ran through distortion. Its pretty standard for Rock bands to backtrack sampled material. If they were an electronic band the sample would have just been triggered from an MPC or something. Does this reviewer not understand samples?? ugh. He also did not mention the incredible visuals or the fact that they covered David Bowie.

seawall9
seawall9

Corgan is a cry baby. No wonder the band dismembered. Good for them!

tdichrisdaly
tdichrisdaly

I met Corgan years ago and thought he was a solid, down to earth dude.  Even then I thought they were an awful live band.  Studio all the way.


bcl87
bcl87

I actually thought the show was really good last night. I fished around for reviews of other shows on this tour, and everyone's opinion seems to be really good. Basically I think Gavin's the one that is full of s***

tb9513
tb9513

I used to hold these same opinions until I took time to look into the music the rest of the band produced in their post-pumpkins era with other bands. Billy had a point. If he wrote all the songs and sang, and produced the records and he was carrying his childhood friends with him out of obligation, because it wasn't because of musical aptitude, how long should that do on? I get carrying Ringo. I have no idea if Adam Clayton is a transcendent Bass Player. I do know that 90% of most music fans can't name the original Smashing Pumpkins lineup aside from Billy. So getting upset that he travels with different band members is misplaced in this instance. The Shins is James Mercer and whoever he wants in the band that year, yet he doesn't catch 1/10th the hell Billy does.

susan.geissler
susan.geissler

I grew up in Chicago and as our hometown sons the Smashing Pumpkins have managed to bring me up just to smash my Siamese Dreams more times than I care to admit. I have always told people they remain one of the greatest shows and worst shows I've ever seen depending on what the whims of Billy were that day. 

My first show I was 14 and they opened for Guns n' Roses on the Use Your Illusion Tour. They were a trainwreck. It doesn't help that they preceded one of the biggest rock bands in the world at the time that was, within days, about to implode in on itself. GnR killed it, and the Pumpkins were not ready to handle an arena show that was prepared to get in on that brand of insanity. It amazed me later in years that I would grow to love them so much after that mess of a performance.

The second time I saw them I was an undergrad at NIU (where Jimmy Chamberlain majored in musical performance). It was the evening before Melon Collie was to be released and to say that show was one of the biggest musical experiences of my life was not to be understated. From the moment they walked on that stage they were ready to melt our faces off. Still gives me chills. No one had heard anything from this album and it didn't matter. It was just that good. There were only around 1,000 students in the ballroom that night and I'd venture to say that there were 1,000 copies of M.C. sold at the local store the next day. 

Over the years I would see them again, usually Billy either bringing it or setting fire to that which we loved. I saw them play with Cheap Trick once, and at Metro, the Vic, the Double Door...displaying the very antics that helped Corgan go crossways with Jim DeRogatis and many other influential music journalists of the time. Sounds like he hasn't changed a bit. I still laugh at the chapter title in DeRogatis' book "Milk It" named "Melancholy and the Pear-Shaped Boy".

We all became disillusioned with the Pumpkins and the inherent narcissism of Corgan. Your article made me sad because you haven't even had the great show to compensate for this pile of crap. I'd see Pumpkins again someday but only when someone else has tickets and my date is hot enough to compensate for what will inevitably be another great disappointment. 

Leslie Barbiero
Leslie Barbiero

Smashing Pumpkins at Roseland Ballroom in '93 is still the worst live show I've ever seen, and they were my favorite band. They were jerks to the audience (the audience handed it right back by hurling a boot at James Iha's head) and every song was butchered. Glad I missed it this time.

Jason Maston
Jason Maston

I saw them in '96 and even with James and D'Arcy in the lineup (Chamberlin was kicked out that summer) it was still pretty joyless!

Craig Monroe
Craig Monroe

Funny I was looking over live shows debating to buy tickets or not. This article nails how I thought of all the pumpkins shows I watched on YouTube.. :(

Genevieve Kissinger
Genevieve Kissinger

Zach Luz----- now i don't feel so bad. Sounds like money well saved for a better concert.

Idiotboxx
Idiotboxx

Corgan was a whiny bitch then and still a whiny bitch now.

genrox
genrox

I was sad when I realized I'd missed this concert....this article fixed that.

@cleaver.gavin  How was Ringo Deathstar? I've seen them before and enjoyed them. I'd love to hear your take on them. Also, love the new Vampire Weekend as well.

Vanessa Guzman
Vanessa Guzman

I saw them at BSMF last week, and it was pretty much the same shtick. I never had the chance to check them out as a kid, so I enjoyed it.....in spite of the painfully obvious mixed meter tug of war between Corgan and his drummer. The highlight was def when they covered Bowie.

fernando.ramires
fernando.ramires

@jtristesse LOLed at this also. That's where you can see when he is written based on his nostalgia feelings...

cleaver.gavin
cleaver.gavin

@dfwheathen I had a lovely childhood. I'm whining about Billy Corgan, lead singer of the band I am reviewing. The subtext is that he's an egomaniac, but I'm not sure this is even complex enough to be  subtext. Anyway, all good stories start with a deep-rooted anecdote from one's youth to aid the reader's understanding of later motivation, wouldn't you agree? A better argument would be that my earlier experience biased me against Corgan from the start.

cleaver.gavin
cleaver.gavin

@darquescience It's compressed drums. It's not challenging to do that live. Anything more complex and I'd agree with you, but a live drummer sitting there redundantly while a drum track plays just looks ridiculous.

The visuals were three stacks of LCD panels showing subpar Tool videos, and I missed out the David Bowie cover because even thinking about it makes me sad.

MeanGreen
MeanGreen

@bcl87 Everyone I've talked to that went said exactly the same things Gavin did. Perhaps you have a huge Corgan boner? 

cleaver.gavin
cleaver.gavin

@bcl87 Or, everyone else is wrong, and I'm the maverick that doesn't play by the rules, the character so beloved by American pop culture that, conversely, you now have to appreciate my review.

cleaver.gavin
cleaver.gavin

@tb9513 He wasn't carrying childhood friends out of obligation. He didn't meet Iha until 22, and he was the first. That sort of stuff is exactly what Billy would say, let's face it. Iha's gone on to play in A Perfect Circle, so he's no slouch, and Chamberlin only left in 2009, so I'm not sure what you mean about their post-band careers.

cleaver.gavin
cleaver.gavin

@genrox @cleaver.gavin I only caught the very end of RD so can't pass verdict. Venue said show started at 8, I got there at 8.30 and somehow we'd got through two support bands in 30 minutes, so I don't really know what happened there.

janerleblanc
janerleblanc

I stand by my comment. Those are like arena rock or theatrical rock. I guess I meant more stripped down rock. I never thought of the Pumpkins as needing costumes.

Mervis_Earl
Mervis_Earl

lulz

This is why I stick with Primus. Wish that I was in Colorado Springs on Thurs and Santa Fe on Fri.

bcl87
bcl87

@cleaver.gavin Clearly you are the one that's a bit stuck-up here. Sure, all of our inner "fanboys" would love to see the original lineup, but it was Oceania that made me a true Corgan/Pumpkins fan, and I appreciate that Billy is taking his group in new directions and still creating great music. Heck, would love to see Waters and Gilmour tour as Pink Floyd, but it's time to stop living in the past.

snausages
snausages

@cleaver.gavin @tb9513 You can only hear Iha on Mellon Collie. Less than half of the album in fact. What exactly do you miss about him again?

janerleblanc
janerleblanc

Prince is kinda a category of his own. :) But Corgan's been nuts for a while.

JaimesonPaul
JaimesonPaul

@janerleblanc I'm 99% sure Billy's love for wrestling is to blame for all of this. Sometime in the 90s he showed up at an CW show, took a chair to the head and has never been the same. I mean how else do we explain ZWAN.


Also, Prince is simply just rock.


JRuggaber
JRuggaber

@bcl87 I feel you've missed the inherent sarcasm in that comment.  Interestingly you back up Gavin without even realizing it, Waters and Gilmour don't tour as Pink Floyd anymore because that time has passed.  Likewise, Corgan should stop touring under the moniker of The Smashing Pumpkins.  If he wants to form a new band and play pumpkins songs with his own unique brand then by all means, it's his right.  You can't belittle someone for living in the past when they're touring under and proclaiming to be the same band from that bygone era.  I wonder as a thought experiment if Oceania would have experienced any success if released by a different band or if it's the name of the pumpkins alone that carries it.  In fairness I find myself wondering that for a lot of bands from the 80's and 90's that are still around releasing albums.

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