Due to start at 8.45pm this gig looks set to be a good one. Yeah so the only original band member left standing is main man Billy Corgan, now joined by guitarist Jeff Schroeder, obligatory female bassist Nicole Fiorentino and the youngest addition after the exit of the last original member of the band, Jimmy Chamberlin, drummer Mike Bryne. It's looking good... just over a 2 hour set, I wonder what songs we will be in for, because, come on, whatever your feelings towards the band are now, they have had some excellent gothic grunge rock.
The blue lights coming out from the stage are dazzling, meaning you cannot look at the stage without being blinded. Nothing is happening yet though so that's ok. I can squint behind the beams and see some serious light equipment, so big that they somewhat block the view to the stage from the edges of the front of the crowd. It has all the makings of an excellent gig!
So why when Smashing Pumpkins come on do I feel so bored? Sure enough, the lighting is astounding, huge sparkly backdrop, mesmerising kaleidoscopes and huge glittering fans... but the music is very drawn out. Corgan barely says anything until the end. The musicianship is spot on, and the layers upon layers of it are crushing at times (in a great way), but there's a definite lack of hits, or songs that people can relate to. I feel at halfway through that the show is all about looking and sounding fancy and showcasing the new album 'Oceania' more than pleasing the crowd. Unfortunately at £40 a ticket many people may not want to be guinea pigs in testing out this new material. Or at least throw us a few good tunes to keep us happy (although this always reminds me of the Simpsons episode featuring the band, where their crowd barely move, in that stereotyped grunge way, and remember that many of their fans might not be happy as that is their way).
The show starts with two new tracks from 'Oceania', 'Quasar' and 'Panopticon'. Although as mentioned before these sound like solid tracks, the crowd are getting bored. It's not until four songs in when 'Geek U.S.A.' from the bands breakthrough hit album 'Siamese Dream' that the crowd go mental. And it sounds amazing. 'Muzzle' from other hit album 'Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness' follows and things are looking up, Especially with 'Window Paine' from debut 'Gish', showing that they are funding the setlist from all their back catalogue. It's such a shame they are not the hits they are playing, or even one or two of them. The odd one that people have listened to or skipped through on their hit albums is not going to make up for the majority from 'Oceania', of which there are six out of the twenty one.
'Silverfuck' is another great song for us to here, but I am still holding out for 'Disarm' or 'Today'. Luckily after a bulk of new songs where there is a mass exodus to the toilets and bar the instantly recognisable chords of 'Cherub Rock' are played. Thank you Pumpkins! I was starting to fret there!
'For Martha' from 'Adore', the album that signalled the beginning of the end for the original band, there is a short encore and then it's back to the good stuff. Corgan actually speaks, and says thank you for coming, and says they will tour the new album again once it's released and we'll know all the songs by then! The added comment that they would play more songs we know too, before adding jokingly "Cheeky bastards!" shows that the band were expecting this reaction to the new stuff, but still decided to play a lot of new stuff on this first night of the UK tour. Looking at recent past set lists it looks like it will remain the same for the rest of the shows too.
'Zero' is a very welcome song to start the encore, and the mighty 'Bullet with Butterfly Wings' finishes off the entire set. This coupled with the giant lighting show and finally the desired reaction from the crowd almost made up for the last two hours. In fact it did for me. As gutted as I was for the lack of songs I know this is always the decision of the band, and as fans we should respect that. Many will disagree after parting with £40, but that is the luck of the draw.
Frail and Bedazzled
Thru the Eyes of Ruby
My Love is Winter
Bullet With Butterfly Wings