Issue 9 Contents


Smashing Pumpkins, Lupo's, 3.2.00

The Smashing Pumpkins new album is supposed to herald their "return to rock." The Providence Phoenix, which came out the same day as their "secret" show in Providence, ran a story titled "Rotten Pumpkins: Why Billy Can't Rock." I had to determine who was presenting things accurately, so I made sure to get inside for a first hand look at things.

The nice people at the Pumpkins PR agency let me have a "working press" pass for the show. I couldn't take photos, only 'report.' They let the Phoenix in, probably not knowing that they don't really do reviews, and rarely publish concert photos. I'll bet the Phoenix didn't tell them about their negative review of the Pumpkins new CD, "MACHINA/the machines of God," either. The Pumpkins also spread around the request that you leave your camera at home and not flash them in concert. WBRU repeated the announcement many times at the pre-party at the Met. Long story short, I got no photos.

So, once I managed to get my butt in the door, the rest was easy. There were signs hanging in the entrance that said " Tonight's performance by The Smashing Pumpkins will consist of 2 (two) sets. There will be a brief intermission between the sets. The show may last over three hours, ending after midnight (12:00am)." I knew that the place would be packed, so I settled into a nice place near a pole so I had something to lean on.

The Pumpkins took the stage after waiting until everybody got inside. If there was any doubt that they came to rock Billy put it to rest with the first song. Without saying anything he approached the mic, raised his arms up and started singing David Essex's "Hey kids, rock and roll/ Rock on." It wasn't a joke. They did the whole song. By the end Billy even managed to get most of the assembled to clap along like it was 1978 all over.

They followed "Rock On," with the new single " Everlasting Gaze," and then "Disarm." Of course "Disarm" was the biggest hit, but by doing a cover, a new song, and a hit, the Smashing Pumpkins set the stage for what actually was a very long and unpredictable evening. They weren't able to keep the crowd interested the whole time, however they did 'rock' enough times to keep everybody there until closing.

With D'Arcy no longer in the group, and Jimmy Chamberlin back on skins after his very public drug problem, the Smashing Pumpkins aren't the same band they used to be. Toward the end of their first set Billy said, " It's like we've turned into our own cover band. We'll bring out the real Smashing Pumpkins in a second." Melissa gives great bass to the SP. I've never seen them in such a small setting, but I don't remember D'Arcy being as loud as Melissa. Chamberlin kept things moving with tons of cymbal smashing, and James Iha kept his head down and the guitar turned up.

After like a half hour intermission, Billy returned alone for a short acoustic set that included, "To Shelia," "Shame," "Drown" and ended with the band returning to help out with a rendition of the Who's "Join Together." It was my favorite part of the evening. Nothing feels as intimate as an acoustic set, and Billy did a great job.

The second set consisted of some serious hits. The mosh pit got moving for "Zero," and "Bullet with Butterfly Wings." Everybody loves to mosh to "Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in the cage." While the Pumpkins frown on crowd surfing, it was hard to hold back. Things quickly slowed back down when they did another cover, The Talking Head's "Once in a Lifetime." It was an accelerated cover, more like The Talking Heads done by NIN or some metal band instead of the fellas who churned out "Tonight, Tonight." To end the evening the Pumpkins did "Cherub Rock," then a cover of Romeo Viod's "Never Say Never." "Never Say Never" got some strange looks, but it was late and people were starting to wonder if the show would ever end. Billy himself seemed to want to stay. After "Never Say Never" he stayed on stage, noodling and chatting with the crowd. He had us bring James back, but then they only did some little jam.

While it didn't conclude with a fiery, pyrotechnic Rock-and-Roll ending, the Smashing Pumpkins really pulled one off in my opinion. The Phoenix might not agree, but when you combine the club size with the number of songs played you have to give them some credit. While I was never the biggest Smashing Pumpkins fan, this show has made me into one. I guess you can't trust what you read in the paper anymore.

Editors note: The Providence Phoenix broke from tradition and actually did a review of this concert. They also published one photo of Billy to go with the story.