Sunday, November 23, 2008

Smashingly Surprising, almost in full (with a twist)

Concert Review
Smashing Pumpkins
November 21, 2008
Auditorium Theatre - Chicago

Having attended Wednesday's "Night 2" Smashing Pumpkins concert at the Chicago Theatre (see post below) and being highly impressed until it went off the rails, but also having read about Tuesday's "Night 1" show which was seemingly likewise a solid show marred by a late barrage of musical droning and Billy Corgan's berating of the crowd, I went into the Night 1 show at the Auditorium with both anticipation and trepidation.

What I got was a surprisingly good show throughout, that never really went off the rails, albeit by accident.

I won't go on again about the propriety of the current semi-reconstituted Smashing Pumpkins, and taking the music simply at face value, for a big fan of their best music, getting to hear stellar versions of Tonight Tonight, Today, Bullet with Butterfly Wings, Siva, Mayonnaise and even the new Tarantula and G.L.O.W. was undeniably enjoyable (though I still say original SP guitarist James Iha brought something to the sound that is now lacking).

Even when the Pumpkins went into long instrumental passages, they were largely rocking and/or melodic, not indulgent droning as in Wednesday's show. But according to the reviews of Tuesday's show, the worst came in the encore. So when the Pumpkins ended their standard Night 1 setlist with their long, droning cover of Pink Floyd's "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun," it provided a nice bathroom break after 2 hours of solidly enjoyable music.

And while I was kind of looking forward to witnessing the largely pre-planned, show closing Billy meltdown for myself, Billy did something even more shocking. He walked off the stage and didn't come back for an encore, despite fans screaming for one for 15 minutes with the house lights up.

As it turns out, I guess he was sick, or vocally exhausted, as the Night 2 show on Saturday (which I was not planning to attend) was postponed. He hadn't really taken the criticism from Tuesday night (and other tour stops) to heart and decided to stop the show before he descended into madness and pissed off some of his adoring fans.

But while not happy that Corgan became ill, and curious about what I didn't get to witness, I'm actually glad it ended when it did. Billy didn't have the chance to diminish an otherwise excellent show; he should end there all the time.

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