October 14, 2012
This crazy month of good concerts(better known as Rocktober) kept chugging along last weekend as the Smashing Pumpkins filled up the Gibson Amphitheater for a blistering performance. Blessing us with sonic offerings old and new, this is the most exciting time in recent memory to be a fan of the band.
Within the past year, Billy Corgan has dug through the archives and released the beautifully expanded and remastered classic Pumpkins albums Gish, Siamese Dream and Pisces Iscariot with the rest of the catalog awaiting to be released. Unlike some other reunited bands who are just cashing checks by playing the hits, Billy Corgan and company continue to push forward and put out the psychedelic glistening new album Oceania.
In the tradition of prior Smashing Pumpkins albums, Oceania needs to be listened with a pair of good headphones to hear and appreciate the aural nuances. The Smashing Pumpkins have such confidence in their new album that they are playing it in its entirety on this tour to kick off the show followed by a set of “Dusty classics” as referred to by Billy Corgan.
With two Mellotron keyboards on stage, the opening swirl of “Quasar” sent the audience on a psychedelic trip as a giant ball suspended above the band rapidly flashed various images originated by the same designers who worked on the Roger Waters tour. It was impressive how well they recreated the layers of sound as the screaming guitar octaves of “Panopticon” were unrelenting.
The chirping, arpeggiated synthesizer line of “Violet Rays” kept everyone transfixed. Corgan and guitarist Jeff Schroeder pulled out Fender Jaguars to reenact the jangle of “My Love Is Winter.” Nicole Fiorentino pulled out a trick from The Cure playbook with some flanging during “One Diamond, One Heart.”
“Oceania” had Corgan entering his classic guitar solo pose and unleashing a torrent of distorted and fragmented notes, solidifying his status as a guitar god. “The Chimera” is my favorite track off the new album with its dueling distorted guitars and a healthy dollop of classic pumpkins psychedelia.
It seemed like only five minutes had passed as they closed out the album with “Wildflower” with drummer Mike Byrne emerging from his drum kit to play the Mellotron as Corgan sang. Possibly coinciding with the space shuttle Endeavor being led through the streets of Los Angeles, their cover of “Space Oddity” was dark and desolate.
A palpable shift in energy throughout the amphitheater occurred as the band started into the corrosive riff of “X.Y.U.” The Smashing Pumpkins blasted off into another dimension pummeling the audience with such hits as “Disarm” and “Tonight, Tonight.” Fiorentino ferociously peeled off the ominous notes of “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” as cell phones were immediately held up for recording purposes.
Guitars continued to roar as the fiery guitar harmonics of “Zero” roared and the familiar introductory snare snap of “Cherub Rock” kept the momentum as a furious pace. After a short break, the band returned for a stellar two song encore of the darkly twisted “Ava Adore” and the uplifting “Muzzle.” One can only hope for an appearance like this at KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas–that would be the ultimate present.
Critical Bias: I missed a lecture by David Byrne and Trent Reznor to go to this show.
Crowd: Guitar and pedal nerds.
Overheard: “That giant ball is tripping me out!”
Random Notebook Dump: It was the fifth time I have seen the Smashing Pumpkins at the Gibson Amphitheater
“My Love Is Winter”
“One Diamond, One Heart”
“Bullet With Butterfly Wings”
“A Song For A Son”