Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Perfectly Smashing Suggested Setlist for Billy Corgan Tonight, Tonight at Ravinia

My interest admittedly abetted by half-price pavilion seats available through Goldstar, tonight I will be seeing Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins do a solo show at Ravinia.

Through his multiple incarnations with the Pumpkins, Zwan and on his own, this will be the 25th time I have seen Billy live on stage--more than anyone than except Bruce Springsteen (with 44 attendances).

So it's not that I am an "only with cheap seats" fan of his, but between having seen him so many times and--though I won't delve deep into it here--Corgan's tendency to exasperate even devoted followers with head-scratching antics, actions, statements and setlist choices, going tonight wasn't a slam-dunk decision (especially being the birthday weekend of my best friend since Kindergarten, but he's now coming to town next weekend).

But along with an abiding curiosity, a true love of much of the music he's made, a desire to get to Ravinia at least once this year and a great ticket deal, a few things acutely prompted my decision to see Billy Corgan tonight. (I'll hopefully post a review here tomorrow or Monday.)

First of all--though for prose purposes this isn't quite in chronological order--I noticed that a Facebook Friend named Jim Ryan, who is a music blogger and local radio & TV traffic reporter/anchor/host, had done an extensive interview with Corgan on his Rock 'n Roll Radio Program and spoke highly of Billy's amity and candor.

I've only heard the first of two parts so far (which you can do here, or read a transcription here at Jim's Chicago at Night blog). Jim does a nice job with the interview and Billy doesn't come off too badly, but I don't think he ever helps himself by talking at length.

Honestly, if all Corgan ever said was "I take my music seriously and try to write songs of substance--some appealing to the casual fan, some that may only reach a few in this increasingly fractionalized musical universe--and just hope to leave a mark," I think he would remain much more popular and relevant, with much less fan attrition since the Pumpkins' '90s heyday. (Heck, he's even lost the 3 other original Pumpkins.)

I also enjoyed hearing--because someone had posted it to Jim Ryan's Facebook wall--Billy perform a never-before-played song called "Chicago" that he debuted recently in promoting the Ravinia show on WGN-TV news. 

If nothing else, this reiterates what a gifted songwriter Billy Corgan is.

But my interest was also peaked by seeing that Corgan had posted (on the Smashing Pumpkins website) an invitation for fans to submit a 20-song "Dream Setlist" for his show at Ravinia.

I didn't really care much about the prize of a private Meet & Greet with Billy--if Jordan had come up for his birthday, I would have skipped the show altogether, even if I had won the contest--but thought it made for a fun exercise.

At the time of entry, I didn't know that Billy was intending to play acoustic, or at least sans band (current Smashing Pumpkins guitarist Jeff Schroeder will be joining him) so I didn't really draft this proposed set with that in mind.

But knowing that this was a solo show, at which material spanning his entire oeuvre was likely, including some lesser-known songs, I tried to make my list fan-friendly to both the hardcore and casual. After all, he is playing Ravinia--in his adopted hometown of Highland Park, where he also operates a Tea cafe called Madame Zuzu's--which is notorious for chatter on the lawn overpowering even the most famous songs, let alone rendering rarities rather colorless. (I'll be sitting in the pavilion, but have experienced music "wafting over the lawn" more than enough.)

Rather than really expecting to win, or even sway Billy, my submission more so represented what I would like to hear tonight. More on this below the setlist, but I didn't win; also, Billy has said he will actually be playing 27 songs, not 20.

Also below the setlist, I have embedded a Spotify playlist of most of the songs I cited; a few aren't on Spotify, so if possible I've provided a YouTube link. All are Smashing Pumpkins' songs, except as noted.

As entered in the contest, here is my suggested setlist for Billy Corgan on Saturday, August 30 at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL:

1. Tonight Reprise
2. Stand Inside Your Love
3. Cast A Stone  (a never released Zwan song; YouTube)
4. Drown
5. Daphne Descends
6. Bullet With Butterfly Wings
7. Riverview (from a planned but never released solo album about Chicago; YouTube) 
8. Disarm
9. Let Me Give The World To You (a great Pumpkins outtake from Adore, later released on the Machina II online album; still one of Billy's best songs. YouTube)
10. Tarantula
11. This Time
12. The Chimera
13. Today
14. Declarations of Faith (one of several great songs from the only Zwan album; YouTube)
15. Mayonaise

16. Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness
17. Muzzle
18. Cherub Rock
19. 1979
20. The Last Song

After having heard "Chicago," I would also include that one.

But as I said above, I didn't win. Though I thought I was being deferential to some of the more serious fans, if Billy saw my list he likely laughed it off for being far too populist.

As Billy revealed here, nearly 1,000 entries were submitted and the winner was Gustaf Bjorlin whose setlist--"although quite different than the one I plan to play"--was as follows:


Obviously Mr. Bjorlin is a dedicated fan, and there's plenty of "Gustaf" included in his setlist, but it's far too esoteric for my tastes.

Honestly--another great Zwan song--on what should be a nice night, I'll be happy to hear whatever one of my musical heroes wants to play, especially given the unique setting and format.

Plugged-in and gloriously overamplified, my setlist would be "Perfect," at least to me.

But even in an acoustic vein, I hope I get to hear some of the above, "Tonight Tonight."

I'll let you know.

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