Musical Musings: Smashing Pumpkins at LC Pavilion
Smashing Pumpkins sounded like one of the world's most formidable rock bands Thursday night at LC Pavilion. It's a shame they didn't put their powers to better use.
The Pumpkins were tight and powerful, with Billy Corgan flaunting his guitar hero status frequently but not excessively. Corgan was affable and engaging, and his bandmates, while devoid of personality, ably realized his vision. To put it plainly, they rocked. The trouble was what they were rocking: a setlist that leaned excessively on tracks from the new Zeitgeist at the expense of mid-'90s classics like "Cherub Rock" and "Disarm."
At first, this wasn't much of a problem. In the concert's first three or four songs, it wasn't even the case, as the band slid from "United States" into beloved one-two punch "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" and "Hummer." Had the Pumpkins maintained that ratio, they would have rivaled any rock experience this year.
Instead, they kept dwelling in Zeitgeist terrain. The new songs are all decent rockers, good for adding some thrust to an arena rock set. But piled up one after another, they grew wearisome when better, more versatile works lingered in memory. Even this wouldn't have been so bad had it been leading to an eventual crack in the dam and a flood of beloved oldies. It wasn't to be; "Zero" and a wonderful "Tonight, Tonight" peppered the setlist, but that was it. Everything else was new. Corgan even had the gall to ask for a singalong with the closing number, which turned out to be "I Love Rock 'n' Roll." What a despicable tease!
The encore of "Today," an acoustic "1979" and "Muzzle" was too little, too late. It came off more like a reminder of what the set could have been. Plus I would have preferred "1979" with a full band. The acoustic rendition was nice enough, but it robbed the song of some of the recorded version's subtle grace.
I hate to be the guy who slams a band for playing their new material and not the hits, and yeah, the Pumpkins sounded massive up there. But come on, at this point they're a legacy band, and I can't believe Corgan is so deluded that he thinks people would rather hear this new stuff all night long. Had expectations not been a factor, this would have been a highly satisfying night of rock 'n' roll. But no band lives in a vacuum, especially not the Smashing Pumpkins.