Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Concert review: Smashing Pumpkins offered veritable one-man show starring Billy Corgan
Corgan sounded exactly the same at 46 as he did at 26.
DALLAS You could squint at the shadowy figures onstage Tuesday night at the Palladium Ballroom and remind yourself Billy Corgan is Smashing Pumpkins. But really, all you had to do was listen.
Of the three dimly-lit musicians who flanked Corgan, none were present in the ‘90s when the Chicago band rivaled Pearl Jam and Nirvana by coloring grunge in lighter, psychedelic hues. Even longtime Pumpkin Jimmy Chamberlin is now gone, replaced by 23-year-old drummer Mike Byrne.
Yet if you closed your eyes, it barely mattered. Corgan – the band’s singer-guitarist and angst-ridden songwriter – sounded exactly the same at age 46 as he did at 26, switching his nasal voice from alley cat screech during the loud parts to a tender whisper in the soft ones.
His explosive guitar continued to echo the heartache and self-loathing that remains a staple of his lyrics. And despite all his rage, he still looks more like Uncle Fester from The Addams Family with each passing year.
Corgan dove deep into last year’s Oceania, including the dreamy, keyboard-laced title track and “Pinwheels.” Even better was “Pale Horse,” with its haunting melody and hypnotic repetition of the word “Thorazine.” It cast a spell that fit perfectly with the show’s abstract imagery and eye-popping pyramid-shaped video screen.
The capacity crowd greeted the new songs politely, but saved its biggest cheers for songs from Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness: From “Rocket” to “Zero” to the show-closing “Today,” Corgan reminded you just how intoxicating one good guitar riff can be. Other high points arrived in the electronic swagger of 1998’s “Ava Adore” -- one of the band’s more underrated songs -- and 2007’s “United States,” a suite-like explosion of prog-rock, psychedelia, and jazz.
Byrne fired up “United States” and other songs with aggressive drumming half-way between Gene Krupa and Keith Moon. New guitarist Jeff Schroeder embellished upon Corgan’s guitar work with some tasty blues-rock solos and a bit too much ‘80s metal riffage -- “Zero” almost turned into a Scorpions song. Nicole Fiorentino, formerly of Vercua Salt, sounded perfect on bass and backing vocals.
Of course, there’s no predicting how long the new members get to keep their jobs. But until the classic lineup of Corgan, Chamberlin, D’arcy, and James Iha bury the hatchet in 2018 for the inevitable Siamese Dream 25th anniversary tour, this one-man Great Pumpkin show seems to be working just fine.
Thor Christensen is a Dallas writer and critic.
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