Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Some thoughts on Corgan's show-closing melt-down

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UPDATE: Pitchfork posts some video of Tuesday night's finale HERE. AND: Mark Guarino reviews Wednesday night's "White Crosses" show.

By far the most controversial part of Tuesday's night Smashing Pumpkins show at the Chicago Theatre was the long psychedelic freak-out on Pink Floyd's "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun," which ended the set proper, followed by a begrudging non-encore of the wicked campfire singalong "We Only Come Out at Night" (which would have been perfect for a Tim Burton soundtrack) and the kazoo-driven sarcastic massacre of "Everything is Beautiful."

As numerous correspondents to this blog have reported in comments below, in between, Corgan went off on a bitter, somewhat demented tirade--the old Billy of "everyone is out to get me, you don't love me, I'll hate you even more than you hate me, so there!"

As I noted in my main review (which my deadline required me to file in the midst of this night-ending mess), I've long since given up trying to make sense of the Great Pumpkin's antics. But if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say it was all part of the show, folks. Nothing spontaneous--or personal--about it.

Despite invoking universally negative reactions from fans and reviewers across the country, Corgan has done this on every night of the tour at every one of the "Black Sunshine" shows. I'm still not entirely sure what he means with that designation, but my guess is that night one links up with night two ("White Crosses") to form a two-part story arc tracing, I dunno, his band's journey from hard-rocking, optimistic early days (it all began with "Everybody Clap Your Hands," remember, and "Siva" came early on, too) through painful darkness and turbulent destruction ("Superchrist"/"United States") to his beloved band being reduced to a mere automated facsimile of a superstar rock group ("Heavy Metal Machine"). As a result, the musicians turn bitter and angry and decide to punish their fans with the most extreme noise and tweeness they can deliver ("Set the Controls," followed by the kazoos).

Then things move toward the white light again ("White Crosses") and the artistes find their spiritual center and Pumpkins Mach II prevail at the end of night two. Or something like that.

Why, if almost everyone has hated this tortured routine on earlier tour stops, does Corgan persist with it? The man has never been anything less than 100-percent committed (and some say that he should BE committed) to his grand conceptual conceits, even when no one understands or likes them. It's only guessing, once again, but I'd say it's all part of a statement he's trying to make about the reconstituted Pumpkins NOT being an oldies act, alternative nostalgia or otherwise, and it is in fact on some dramatic, horribly painful but ultimately brilliantly worthwhile odyssey of its own, just like the old band. Remember, in his world, Smashing Pumpkins tours are ordeals far more trying than any military campaign, outdoing the misery even of Napoleon's infamous retreat from Moscow. And if they aren't, they're not worth doing. (See: Zwan.)

Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to such misery--whether it's Corgan himself, or his fans?

Now THAT is a question where I can't even BEGIN to hazard a guess. It's been plaguing me from day one of covering the Pumpkins, on all the occasions when the train has run off the rails.

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Good take on what it could all be about... Having seen video and read reviews of the previous shows, I just thought it was lame.
Almost as lame as the crowd. I don't have a problem with people that only want to hear the hits, but the crowd was just dead last night.

Although I blame that partly on the seats.
I can't recall ever seeing a Pumpkins show that wasn't general admission.

Great analysis. Personally, I wasn't the least bit offended, nor did I take it personally. I think he's trying to shed his band of "fans" like the drunk, high idiots seated in front of me, for which I'm grateful!

Regarding your last question, I have read several interviews wherein Billy Corgan states that he derives creative energy from turmoil, not stasis.

Even this exchange you had with him in 2000, Jim, asserts that he needs contention to influence his creative energy.

That'd be my guess. It can be undeniably frustrating as a fan, but I think he challenges those who follow their work to be incredibly trusting through these weird trials.

As for Corgans melt was a total joke and he needs serious Help...He goes on with this victim like BS when fans are paying 300 dollars a ticket it to see him...The anti encore was anti-climatic and killed a pretty good show...

I know;I was the guy who he gave the mic to during the encore...I was totally disapointed that he didnt rock out like he should have...The show was overall pretty good but I expect more from the PUMPKINS this isn't some wannabee local band trying to hit it big...Its "THE SMASHING PUMPKINS" Im fine with musicians trying to reinvent themselves but dont call it the smashing pumpkins rename it and go on tour as a new band...They are using there star power to play some fake alternative kazzoo playing, kettle drum smashing, dress-wearing fake Blue Man group bullcrap to sell-out shows...If they just did this they wouldn't even be able to sell out DOUBLE-DOOR...

well they played 48 different songs in 2 nights
that sounds like a band that cares about their fans

Well...I have to say that this is an interesting and perceptive interpretation of the two night concert and "Sunshine"/"Crosses" theme. But, instead of trying to psycho-analyze Corgan (which comes off as more than a little dismissive of his actual talent and insulting to him as a person), perhaps this is solely the band's constant artistic exploration of itself and the music they continue to create. In doing so, like Todd Rundgren, Prince, Joni Mitchell, Pete Townshend and The Beatles before them, they will always risk alienating factions of their audience. That is the risk of the artist and I applaud The Smashing Pumpkins for being willing enough to anger their biggest fans just in order to satisfy their artistic growth. As Jimmy Chamberlin said in the documentary, "If All Goes Wrong," "Art shouldn't make you feel comfortable." This is all part of the process and the audience is also an integral part of it. As Chamberlin also said in a recent radio interview, the audience and the band are on this journey together and "we'll move forwards together and we'll move backwards together and we're not going backwards." It is the worst artistic trap that many have fallen into. If they continue on the path they are currently on, they will lose fans. But, if they just delivered the hits and toured endlessly on a series of songs like The Rolling Stones, The Smashing Pumpkins would be easily dismissed as a novelty act and Billy Corgan would be assassinated with limitless criticism about how he's just in it for the money and there's nothing new. Even if it is occassionally unpleasant and even if it just doesn't make sense at times, we need bands like The Smashing Pumpkins. We need this level of musicianship. We need this level of songwriting. We need a band willing to take swan dives time after time--to push themselves just as they push us. We will all benefit grandly.

And as a side note, the glaringly faint praise heaped upon new members Jeff Schroeder, Lisa Harrington and Ginger Reyes was truly unfortunate. I feel that they are extremely exceptional musicians that have coalesced with Corgan and Chamberlin into a unit that I feel is even stronger than the original band. Yes, I loved James Iha. I loved his prescence, his songwriting, his textural guitar stylings and I feel his solo album is extremely underrated and well worth seeking out. That said, when I hear a new composition like "Gossamer," I just cannot see the original band pulling it off. Jeff has already pulled so many guitar tricks from his magic bag and I feel we've only begun to take notice. Lisa's keyboard work compliments the songwriting so perfectly. Ginger is an agressive bassist and she also has a strong sense of groove, melodicism and fluidity that I never heard with D'arcy. I truly hope they remain with the band for many, many years to come and I wish I were in Chicago to see this tour. How thankful we should all be that they are still around.

Jim, once again you haven't gotten the memo from the twentysomething-dominated rock-crit blogosphere: Serious analysis of the Smashing Pumpkins' intentions is absolutely not allowed! That is reserved for Wilco, Radiohead, Spoon, Of Montreal, and the Elephant Six collective. Please, cease and desist...

I couldn't have said it better than Scott :)

I was at the first night show and wish I had the 2 1/2 hours of my life, not to mention my money, back. There's no denying that Corgan is a talented musician. Some of the songs last night reminded me of his songwriting ability and his performance potential. The problem was that the crowd wasn't seeing any of those positives last night. Instead we were presented with completely lifeless and rushed renditions of the older songs interspersed between too many 10 - 15 minute noisefests put on by an egomaniac. The kazoo encore was awkward and unnecessary, in fact, the rest of the band appeared to be uncomfortable on stage at that point. Corgan said that we don't know what we want from the band. I disagree. I know what I wanted and I certainly didn't get it at the show. If you want to put on a show just to screw with the audience, then by all means go ahead, but don't use the pumkins name to draw that audience or to charge those ticket prices to see it. "Are you ready to die for rock and roll?" - unfortunately the once terrific pumkins are now in fact dead.

I think you hit the nail on the head. I read earlier reviews of shows and knew that the rant was coming at the end of the night. Once you know it's coming, it felt like I was in on the joke. I had a great time watching everyone kind of freak out over a 20 minute Pink Floyd cover. The subsequent freak out after the encore was great - you could see that Billy was relishing the fact that this guy paid $300 for his seat and was baiting the crowd that SP was the best band out there.

Frankly, I thought it was fantastic and I can't wait for the second show tonight. These are shows that need to be taken in context of one another.

Jim may be onto something, if you check you tube you will see corgan getting heckled elsewhere. Though they are not staged plants because I was one of the people yelling trash right back at him last night, and I don't work for him. When he said the audience was like an ex girlfriend that took all his money, I thought, you loser, we are paying you good money for these tickets and you have the nerve to complain because you suck so bad that the thousands of people who support your music weren't moved to clap. Scott and John you guys are wrong. This isn't art. Its not a lame crowd. These people, including myself, came to be entertained and came to rock to real music, be it new, old, experimental, or otherwise. We didn't pay to see someone wank off for hours, thus maybe the need for a dress. People were stoked on the way in. He blew it. It was the most self-indulgent dribble I've seen in years. You can't rock when you have a "band" that is comprised of people who are paid to nod yes to Billy and be his robots. He is so lost in his self absorption he can't even remember to introduce his guitarist. Maybe he was daydreaming about how he would torture us with the star spamgled banner or how we would be blogging about this today. I disagree that you must insult an audience to become viable and fresh, or that you must distance yourself from your past hits to be creative. All good bands prove that notion false. Perhaps resorting to Jerry-Springer like theatrics is the only straw left for someone who is artistically washed up, irrelevant, and just a mean spirited ego head. Even there no room left for hair on a Corgan head! I'm done with the tortured artist drama and lame shows while he's living pretty. He gets ZERO dollars from me now....

Oh Billy... how you hate your fans, you poor 'tortured genius'.... yet somehow you're still able to muscle up the courage to take their cover charge and CD sales and T-shirt sales and..... It's all a business transaction, no? But we know it's more, right? We all know attention hungry, ego quenching drama when we see it... and you sir are it.

"We all know attention hungry, ego quenching drama when we see it... and you sir are it."

Well duh.
Begs this question: How could you have not known this before the show?

Wow, are you people crazy? How can you complain about this show, i know you thought it was great until the last 3 songs. Get over it, this isn't the old smashing pumpkins, you should know that by now, where have you been the last 2 years? Just because they decide to confuse you and freak you out by doing something completely different for an encore doesn't mean the band sucks. How can you complain about "self indulgent" guitar solos, that's what you should go to shows for, MUSIC! Not to hear the crap songs you hear on the radio every day. Why cant anyone talk about how great of musicians these guys are? Did you come to this show expecting to see the Smashing Pumpkins or Nickelback!?!? Thanks, pumpkins for putting on a great show and not being like the others. To all others going to future shows, do not be mislead by these reviews, they put on a GREAT show. Plus you need to see this show as part 1 of 2. The White Crosses show will most likely please you with more rock and heavy songs, its all part of the experience.

If you didn't like last nights show, please don't ever buy their tickets again so fans can get seats. Just stay at home and listen to MTV and your radio friendly crap that you have been force fed your whole lives.

I've been to night 1 and 2, and I'm going to 3 and 4. I'm convinced that people just enjoy disliking the Pumpkins. I loved this band in 1989 and I love this band now. If you don't like this new incarnation, then please go away.

Oh, and as far as self indulgent guitar solos go, people still pay money to see AC/DC, Styx, REO Speedwagon, etc. These are acts that haven't had a creative lick in years, but yet keep going out there night after night playing the same solo over and over. If this is what you want, then keep hoping for the Boston reunion, cause it ain't happening.

>>If you don't like this new incarnation, then please go away.

Lucas, there is fandom, and then there is self-delusion. You, unfortunately, seem to have bought into the latter. I liken it to Cubs fans who still expect the team to bring home a World Series at the start of every season (yes, there are still a few of those poor, unfortunate souls out there).

I'm a huge Pumpkins fan, but that doesn't mean I can't be critical. In fact, I think it gives me more a right to be critical than the idiots who scream out "Play Cherub F***ing Rock!" and the like. I, so far, have been, at best, mildly impressed by the Pumpkins Mach II, at worst insanely disappointed. The live shows have been the impressive part; Zeitgeist was the disappointing one. I don't think I need to "go away" just because I think King Billy has lost the plot. I hope that he finds it again. I hope to someday soon hear songs as good as anything from "Starla" to "Let Me Give The World To You" (two disparate parts of the Pumpkin spectrum). But I haven't been impressed with any of the new stuff. I have that right as a consumer and as a fan, and to be told to "go away" tells me very frankly that you are only interested in feeling good about this band. That's your prerogative, but please don't shun the rest of us just because you, like Billy, would prefer to only hear positive happy feelgood reviews.

To Chris: You response and claiming that I was "wrong" and that you just wanted to hear "real music," proved my point EXACTLY. None of this is about right or wrong. This is about Billy's journey as a songwriter as well as an artist. This is about the band's evolution. If we, as audience memebrs and fans, enjoy it or despise it, that's all up to each individual.'s another point. Isn't it great that all of these people are having passionate reactions--positive and negative--to what the band is doing? Is this possibly what it may have been like when The Beatles released "Revolution #9," or when Bob Dylan went electric, when Stevie Wonder released "Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants," or through a myriad of curve balls Bowie, Rundgren and Prince have tossed at all of us? In our sadly homogenized current culture where results are demanded over process and growth, isn't is great to have real emotion over some meaningless experience?

And then, another question. The Smashing Pumpkins have always been a bit out of step. They are a huge band but not really taken that seriously. Billy wears his heart on his sleeve and that makes him a tremendously easy target. But, if he presented himself with some sort of ironic distance then would certain material be evaluated differently? Like, if Wilco or Radiohead released "Machina," it would instantly be hailed as genius. If the Pumpkins released The Flaming Lips' well received "Christmas On Mars" in the exact same way, I guarantee Billy would be raked over the coals. What if Billy did things in the way Jack White did them? Would he be seen the same way?

(I love Wilco, Radiohead, Jack White and the Lips--no disrespect to them)

Keep pushing forward!


You make a fair point by saying that reactions are indeed up to each individual. But I think your argument goes off the tracks slightly when you compare Billy's artiste persona with Dylan's earliest electric shows, "Revolution 9," and The Secret Lives of Plants. Dude, no offense, but are you insane? The comparison doesn't hold. Consider:

- Dylan's plugging-in, granted, earned him scorn. But for him, it was beyond giving a veritable middle finger to the British and American folk scenes; and it was beyond just doing what he wanted. Dylan was moving in a new direction. You say, "Keep pushing forward," but I fail to see how the Great Pumpkin's theatrics are pushing forward, rather than just putting on a new show. It's all style, but with very little change in substance, from what I've heard of bootlegs, seen of clips and photos, and read in accounts.

- "Revolution 9" was an attempt by Lennon, George Martin, and (to a certain extent) Paul McCartney to create an avant-garde recording. What many Beatles and general pop music fans fail to realize is that it was retro-pastiche by the time the Beatles got around to their experiments. But beyond that, what is avant-garde about Billy's ranting? Further, what is avant-garde about Billy's music? The Pumpkin King has always had a slightly off-mainstream taste in music, particularly his fetish for My Bloody Valentine, fully realized on songs like "Here Is No Why." But he coupled that with a love for Boston and the Cars, using the sound of those swirling guitars as one conduit for creating yet another brilliant arena-rock anthem. Billy's taste may lean towards avant-pop, but his main resting point always seems to be rock 'n' roll that can fill up a grand theater. That's not a criticism of his music, nor of him, but I simply don't see how you can make the comparison to "Revolution 9."

- The Stevie Wonder record you mention is, along with Bowie and Prince, more along lines with which I can somewhat agree. Yet still, I don't think Billy & the Pumpkins have given us any sort of curveball the likes of which the afore-mentioned artists have. That's why I liken them to U2. Good U2, I mean (and yes, that exists). Unlike Jim, I think The Joshua Tree was a very, very good album, albeit not necessarily a masterpiece and aided infinitely by the presence of The Great Eno. Achtung Baby, however, completely turned that sound on its head. It was similar between Mellon Collie and Adore: The two records have quite a bit in common, if you break it down, but they are in large part inverse selections in the Pumpkin catalog. Now, having said that, I fail to see what Zeitgeist or the current tour has done to be likened even to such a curveball as that. I'd be happy to hear your thoughts on this.

Finally, I think it's a logically absurd to suggest that Billy would've been "raked over the coals" had he done a project like Christmas on Mars, or that Radiohead/Wilco would've been immediately praised for something like Machina. There are so many things wrong with that assertion, it's ridiculous. First, I don't know if you noticed, but critics were pretty lukewarm to Sky Blue Sky last year; it wasn't "instantly... hailed as genius." And frankly, it wasn't as good a record as Machina was. Second, Radiohead attempts to be far too artsy-fartsy (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) to try a pop concept album like Machina.

And as to the Christmas on Mars comment, well, dude, you are nuts if you think Billy would ever have attempted something like that. Billy's career may be littered with strange detours, but they've never been nearly as strange as the ones observed by the Lips. Frankly, Christmas on Mars seems pretty natural as far as Wayne Coyne & Co. are concerned. We're talking about a band that creates a psychedelic-colored freakout for a live show every single time they perform; a lead singer who crowd surfs in a giant bubble; an outfit that includes dancers dressed as Santas or Martians, a giant UFO screen, and, occasionally, strippers being showered with streamers; and a discography that includes such song titles as "Guy Who Got a Headache and Accidentally Saves the World," "The Ceilin' is Bendin'," and "SpongeBob and Patrick Encounter the Psychic Wall of Energy." Billy may be an artiste, and he may like to play the crazy-tortured rock star every so often, but he is not nuts the way Wayne Coyne is nuts. Coyne has, for better or for worse, ideas; Billy sometimes simply seems to have issues.

The point that some of the people who actually liked the Smashing Pumpkins show this week are missing is that it was AN ANNIVERSARY TOUR! Hence meaning, YES they are suppose to play mostl of their hits!!!! That is the whole point! Prime Example: Iron Maiden's summer ANNIVERSARY show, they played ALL the classics and songs FANS wanted to play! If Billy Corgan wanted to do an artistic/psychodelic/rock opera, he should have labeled it as such, then nobody would be complaining! But since you label something as an ANNIVERSARY, people expect to hear what they paid for! Henry Rollins once did a spoken word tour, and labeled it as such, so FANS wouldn't be dissapointed! Corgan's problem (one of them out of many) is that he didn't play what the fans wanted but what HE wanted! This is where everyone who hated the shows, has a right to argue that they were cheated! My friend is a huge Pumpkins fan, for as long as the band has been together and he went to Tues show (I went to Monday's), and he said everyone was dissapointed as well! In conclusion, I know that he has been playing the same type shows in every city, but this is his HOMETOWN, and we deserved more, not the same as everyone else, since after all, the fans are what made Smashing Pumpkins, not the other way around! -Steve Baggio

To Brendan D:

All I was trying to say in my post with all of the musical comparisons is just that Billy isn't simply giving people what they may be expecting or wanting from him and when he delivers something that may not fit into a certain box, the negative reactions can sometimes be quite venomous--as if playing "Gossamer" for 20 minutes and not playing a favorite SP hit was a choice to personally offend people instead of just him and the band making an artistic choice for themselves. That's what I was getting at. Much film footage I have seen from Dylan going electric for instance, had people feeling that he had betrayed them instead of just accepting that he had moved onwards musically and artistically. Some of the criticism towards the band and Billy in particular just seems so...angry to me and it is reminding me of that.

But...I'm sorry. I just feel that some musicians get a pass when others don't. Some are critic's darlings and others are not. Again, I love Radiohead but I feel they could put ANYTHING out and it would be hailed as genius. I think Thom Yorke has an amazing voice but will ANYONE ever just ask him to enunciate?! Do you honestly think that if Billy decided that he would only wear red, white and black, not use bass guitar, only record everything lo-fi and create a mythology to go with it that all of the press would be about the music and not his psyche and supposedly massive ego gone beserk? When you think about the mythology behind The White Stripes, it is just as ridiculous as "Machina" is convoluted and somewhat impenetrable. But, White gets a pass and Billy is just crazy.

Even the nature of the idea of the Pumpkins returning at all as a functioning musical unit has led to this endless debate about them maybe not being a "real band" or even questioning the integrity of this tour just because James Iha and D'arcy are not involved. Yet, for Wilco, there have been many lineup changes yet Jeff Tweedy remains the driving force and no one says a thing. How about Guns N' Roses? With all of the hype surrounding the release of "Chinese Democracy," there just hasn't been anything in the music press comparable to the continuous scoffing made towards Billy and Jimmy in regards to the fact that Axl Rose is the ONLY member of the original band remaining and the album was made by himself and a revolving cast of musicians. Is that a band?

Yes, the concept of what makes a band is a slippery slope but Billy Corgan seems to be taken to task for something that is quite commonplace. Why is that?

Look, I am not trying to say that evrything the man and this band happen to do is gold. I am happy that they are doing what they are doing and it is their complete right because they are the artists. And I appreciate them pushing themselves and us as well.

>>There just hasn't been anything in the music press comparable to the continuous scoffing made towards Billy and Jimmy in regards to the fact that Axl Rose is the ONLY member of the original band remaining and the album was made by himself and a revolving cast of musicians. Is that a band?

Well first, yes, it's a band, but if you're asking is it fair to call it Guns N' Roses... no, not really. But that's not really important. You think that all this hype for Chinese Democracy is because people are giving Axl Rose a pass? Please. It's getting hyped because no one really thought Axl would ever complete it. Chinese Democracy's tortured history became the butt of so many jokes that even the Offspring made fun of them. The Offspring? Really? I mean, they've never even made a good song, let alone a good record, and yet they felt secure enough to riff on Axl's title. Said Dexter Holland before Splinter was released, "Axl ripped off my braids, I ripped off his album title." So I think the media hype for Chinese Democracy can be attributed more to the fact that it's actually coming out, rather than some kind of misplaced respect for Axl Rose.

You also seem to be under the mistaken impression that people are all pissy with Billy for bringing back the band without James and D'Arcy. That's crap. I loved Adore (made without Jimmy) and the Machina albums (made without D'Arcy). A lot of people did. That was still a band, because the changes came from within, and the Pumpkins, as a band, still had a lot to say. And the changes were organic. I would consider those to be like the changes with Wilco. But this re-formed lineup doesn't seem to be much different than the Zwan lineup, albeit with different hired hands. And ask yourself this: If Billy just wanted to craft the best lineup of the Smashing Pumpkins ever, why did he have to get a male guitarist and a female bassist? Now, when he brought in Melissa Auf Der Maur, I thought it was a stroke of genius, because she's an awesome bassist and because it screwed with his frienemy Courtney Love. That's the vindictive side of Billy that I like. But what's so great about Ginger Reyes? Or Jeff Schroeder? When Tweedy brought in, say, Glen Kotche, it was because he was, quite simply, a better, more experimental, and more diverse drummer than Ken Coomer (which is too bad, 'cause Ken's a really, really good drummer). Can the same be said about Reyes and Schroeder?

I think you also fall off the tracks quite a bit with the reference to the White Stripes mythology, because you're comparing apples and hats (or two other completely disparate things). Jack White used that goofy crap about himself and his ex-wife being siblings from the get-go, and it was as stupid then as it is now (although it made for a pretty awesome Flaming Lips song). Billy never invented mythology for the Pumpkins. He did invent mythology for the Machina albums. I thought, and think, it was great. Why do you keep insisting that people were somehow hostile to Machina? I'm not the only one who liked it; the guy on whose board you're posting gave those albums pretty glowing reviews, too.

As to this notion that Billy is somehow moving in some sort of new direction artistically the way Dylan was in 1965, what has led you to this conclusion? Like I said before, it's just a new show, not a new direction. When Dylan plugged in, he radically changed his sound. Just listen to the "Royal Albert Hall" version of "I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)," a dramatic reinterpretation of a formerly acoustic song. Audiences had likewise never heard Dylan whinnying the way he does on "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" (a better version on the bootleg than on Highway 61 Revisited) or "Like a Rolling Stone." Is Billy doing something radical like that? I don't think so. Even the reinterpretations of songs aren't something new. Don't believe me? Go back and listen to bootlegs of the last Pumpkins tour. Billy reinvented "Today" pretty dramatically, turned it from grungy arena ballad to something more simplistic; so too was the intro to "1979" drastically different, making it into a jangle-pop song (which, don't get me wrong, was awesome). Reinterpretation is simply something artists do to keep their material fresh (Dylan, for instance, has done this a great many times throughout his career, never better than on the first leg of the Rolling Thunder Revue tour in '75).

Finally, I think it's distasteful to evaluate a band, one way or another, on the reactions of fans. The Grateful Dead had some of the nicest, most welcoming, most engaging fans I've ever met; but their live shows were crap, in my opinion. Nirvana had some of the biggest morons for fans in the history of music; but their live shows were oftentimes (though by no means always) outstanding. The fans can certainly add to or take away from the overall experience of going to a concert; but if you're really into a band, what's important is what's going on on-stage, not in the crowd (the exception to this that I've found is the Polyphonic Spree, but that's a personal thing). I mean, a few years ago, the Flaming Lips put on what I thought was an amazing performance at Lollapalooza, but there were a lot of drunk-and-stoned frat-boys crowd surfing, so much so that you couldn't stand for a full song without getting kicked in the head. Did I let that ruin the show for me? Of course not, because those morons can't take away from the awesomeness that is the Flaming Lips.

The moral of the story: If you're such a huge Pumpkins mark, evaluate what's going on on-stage. I hate those idiots that stand there screaming "Play Cherub Rock!!!!" or whatever; but if the show is awesome enough, they won't ruin it. The Pumpkins are a popular enough band that they're going to attract their share of boneheads who remember "Today" from the radio and just wanted to go to a concert 'cause they had some extra cash. You have to ignore them. I wonder, though: What does say about King Billy's new live show that you seem completely unable to block out the idiot poseurs at the shows?

once a d---, always a d--- Jim DeRogatis! You don't know s---!

you know if something rocks or not, there is no debate in it. When someone puts on music regardless of who the band is you make the decision yourself if you are down or not. Yes some might lean a little/give a band more create then they deserve based on past performances but to really try to back all of this is just not excepting reality. The people that are trying to defend this stuff need to look in the mirror. You aren’t betraying anyone to say it like it is=Billy’s music sucks now.

Nothing lasts forever regardless of how great it might have been at one point.


OK Brenden...I really think you are misreading what I am saying. I AM NOT saying that "The musical direction of Billy Corgan=The musical directions Dylan or The Beatles." The lineup changes during the original incarnation of the band maybe felt more organic because they didn't go through a break-up and reformation at that time. Everything just flowed onwards. When they reformed, there was no explanation whatsoever. Jeff and Ginger were just there and questions weren’t answered—a purposeful decision to just let the music do the talking for a while. For me, while "Mellon Collie" is my favorite Pumpkins album, I think they made even better music afterwards. I think "Adore" is staggeringly gorgeous. I love "Machina" as well and that was the first time that he reminded me a bit of Pete Townshend with his grand concepts, themes and band personas within band personas. BUT...there were fans that did feel confused by those albums, no matter how many times (and there were A LOT of interviews) Billy explained that the music and the direction of the band was going to change. You cannot deny that there were people who did indeed HATE "Machina" for whatever reasons. "Mellon Collie" happens to be my favorite because it reflected a time, a feeling, and a spirit. It was the right music at the right time for me and it took a stranglehold over me. You and I can debate musical movements or if Billy is heading in a new direction or not FOREVER. (And without a "face-to-face," that kind of a debate can be frustrating for both of us--but I value your statements!) What I am writing about is the relationship between artist and audience and what an audience member may want may not be what they receive and when you are going up against people's memories, you will always lose. When people hear the words “reunion” and “20th Anniversary Tour,” expectations are already made and when they don’t match up to what people perceive those words to mean, then some are disappointed. After the reformation, Billy, who is extremely self-aware as you know, has made great pains to talk about the audience of the past and the band of the past and how despite "a few shows in 1999, THAT band hasn't shared a stage since '96." But, the image and memory of THAT band remains. Pumpkins fans tend to be quite possessive so it is understandable that some feel the way that they do. Go to any SP message board and you will still find posts about the whole "James/D'arcy" issue.

As for perceptions of Billy in the media, I think if there is some disagreement between us, it will have to be left at that. Billy’s work is simply not evaluated in the same way as others. So much ink has been spilled about his ego, how he’s a dictator and even questioning his sanity. Reviews are often critiquing the persona (which he does play into often) rather than focusing on the music. Read the new concert review they wrote on Pitchfork and it is really nothing but a hatchet job on Billy as if there's some score that needs to be settled (Did Billy not grant them an interview or something? Why do they bash him for having various versions of "Zeitgeist" at Best Buy when The Eagles have exclusive deals with f-ing Wal Mart and Guns N' Roses also has an exclusive deal with Best Buy?) What of the fans posting message claiming how “Billy won’t get one more dime from me!!” or “We had three generations of my family to see your show and you ruined it!!” Why are some people taking things so personally as if Billy sat around and plotted just what he could do to just make people angry and miserable? Hey! I didn’t even see the shows and I think those statements are a bit much.

The presence of Jeff, Ginger and Lisa is also a debatable point and that is also up to the individual. When I hear the new members, I hear musicians that are quite possibly in the same musical and emotional place as Billy and Jimmy are and without that internal drama that was a trademark of the original band, perhaps that gives Billy and Jimmy a healthier headspace to be in to create and perform. Maybe a healthier headspace is a major reason as to why James and D’arcy chose to not return. Even by the time of the final show in 2000, Iha remarked that while he is proud of the work they did together, he didn’t really get into the whole mythology of the band and the grandness of a finale was a bit much for him. Billy is now 41 and Jimmy is 44—both middle aged and quite possibly not wanting to deal with anymore internal drama or anything they put up with when they were younger. They have all moved on just as their original audience and fans have all moved on. Some will remain. Some will leave and that’s how it goes. Pete Townshend spoke of this very issue at length on their new DVD and it was typically eloquent. He spoke of how what the fans may have wanted or needed from the band when they were younger are things they no longer want or need from the band. “They don’t want The Smashing Pumpkins to be anything other than what they were,” Townshend said. When that happens, it is a trap for the artist and all Billy can do is to just do the same ol’ thing or keep following his own artistic path, whatever that may be.

TWO LITTLE THINGS: I forgot to answer this last time. I do not think that “Zeitgeist” is a curve ball whatsoever. I think it is an accessible hard rock album that is designed to be a re-introduction to the band. It is as if Billy and Jimmy are saying, “Hi! We’re back.” That’s it. Anything epic or “artsier” will come later. But, some complained about it for varying reasons. “It wasn’t this like that album” or “It wasn’t that like that album.” And that’s how it goes…You can’t please everyone.

Yes, I know the whole Guns N’ Roses thing is about the fact the album is actually for real. But, when that discussion comes out about what is a band or isn’t, reviews aren’t really bringing it up too much as far as this particular album is concerned. Why didn’t he just release it as an “Axl Rose” album? Is Axl just in it for the money by releasing something under the brand name? What about The Who? Is that a band? (These are all rhetorical questions, by the way) I really enjoyed “Endless Wire” ut they continue to tour on the much of the same catalog—Something Billy is still being criticized for with the new version of the band.

Essentially, none of this matters at all because The Smashing Pumpkins are the ones who have to go on their path. We don’t write their songs or perform their shows. All we can do is to like it or not and to allow them to go wherever they need to go.

Corgan loves the fans, I know he does-he just doesn't want to be treated like a greatest hits novelty act. The Smashing Pumpkins don't deserve to be viewed that way, and if you don't like the new stuff getting equal or more play time at shows then maybe you should save your money.

When he played Voodoo fest in New Orleans it was the first time I had ever seen SP, having been only 14 when they broke up in 2000 or whatever. Anyway, I was sort of wondering if he would be the enigmatic, angry Corgan he was so famous for being in years past. In reality, he was much more nice, gracious, and energetic that I expected. The band played great, he worked the crowd well making some genuinely funny jokes, he played "born on the bayou" for the Lousiaiana crowd during the heavy metal machine noodle fest, and after an acoustic encore of "tonite, tonite" he stayed out on stage, bowing and waving from each corner of the stage as the band walked quietly off.

I've heard a lot about SP sounding terrible lately; speaking with a few people I know who saw them pre-breakup I found out that they thought the performance was not nearly as good in comparison. Speaking about what I saw a year ago though, the band, the crowd, and the Corgan were all into it, truly enjoying every moment of the show. Frankly though, I would find Corgan freaking out in old school Corgan fashion to be completely awesome. Such freak outs and rage is a part of a by gone era; just like Clinton surpluses, good Simpsons episodes, and plaid fashion apparel... to me it would be almost whimsical to see him freak out. And while I agree that the idea of him playing such a terrible encore is ridiculous, I can't stand "fans" that complain about the set list when all they want to hear is 1979, Disarm, and "rat in a cage" anyway.

Also, I'll agree that I just don't feel the same attachment to the current lineup of the Pumpkins as I used to. Saying the Pumpkins aren't really the Pumpkins because of Darcy and James' absence is ridiculous; "Guns and Roses" in their current form is a band that should be forced to take a different name, but losing a rhythm guitarist and a bassist that added little to the actual writing of the music, while it might be hard to swallow, it certainly doesn't warrent suddenly seeing SP as a Billy Corgan solo project with a hired band, because, in reality, SP has always sort of been that!

I don't think anyone can really deny that SP is truly just Jimmy and Billy, and that it has generally been that way forever (with occasional exception), but Darcy and especially James brought something more to the lineup-something currently missing. Don't get me wrong, I like the new bass and guitar players; infact, Ginger is, I think, I better bass player than Darcy ever was and Jeff is pretty talented himself. Yet, until the next Pumpkins album comes out and the album tour starts featuring Jeff and Ginger (assuming it even does) I will not allow myself to feel the same closeness I once felt to James and Darcy. I'm hoping that even though they aren't being allowed any real input regarding musical direction, they will be asked by Billy to stay on long term as the new Smashing Pumpkins. Because as much as I defend the Smashing Pumpkins maintaining the SP namesake, I really don't want the bass and rhythm guitar spots to be a constant rotating door filled by random people I care nothing about.

Finally, to quickly (yeah right, nothing is quick about this post!) re-address Billy Corgan's latest string of seemingly pre-conceived outbursts... I would not go as far as to say he is trying to pull a Dylan circa 1965, but I do think he may be trying to alienate the sort of fans he sees as undesirable. At this point, I don't think Billy wants their money or applause if they are gonna yell out "play Today!" constantly during the lulls in the new songs, or between the breaks in the set list. Even at the risk of alienating good fans, he wants to make sure the people who only love their 1979s and Tonight, Tonights and aren't willing to appreciate new material will be discouraged from dropping cash on a ticket just to hear the songs he remembers from the radio. Frankly, if that is his plan... Im not sure I agree with his approach, but his motives are certainly well founded. The show I saw he and the band played their hearts out, they played for about 3 hours, maybe even a little longer, and they included the perfect balance of old and new material to keep the whole crowd content. From tonight, tonight, to Tarantula, to the awesome guitar noodling of United States the crowd I was in was captivated. Perhaps his outbursts are his reaction to what he sees as disrespect, or perhaps they are some sort of bizarre performance art used as a prelude to a forthcoming Pumpkins anger that has more old school Corgan angst than any of his songs in the past 12 years.

Whatever the explanation... I'm not trying to make excuses, and I know how disappointing it can be to not get what you expected, but such unusual behavior is part of what has long made Corgan loved and loathed as a popular artist in the past 20 years. Maybe there is a deeper cause for his angst, maybe he just wants to shake off the losers looking to catch an oldies reunion tough, or maybe he's losing his mind-who knows? What I do know is that in a slightly different incarnation the Smashing Pumpkins are back, and so are Corgan's unpredictable outbursts and unbalanced temperment. Long live the angst of the Grunge rock days! Long live the controlling, aloof, ego maniac that is Billy Corgan!

This tour is going to go down as the most controversial SP tour ever and I'm glad that I was a part of it. And despite of (or because of) the controversy, I think it's also going to go down as his most successful tour. First of all, look at all of the people talking about SP again. And not just bitching with each other but having deep conversations about what this band is/was/will be/and supposed to be. I never thought I would see so much interest in this band again. His determination to alienate fans is serving 2 purposes: 1) He's drawing massive attention to the band once more. Even if people are foaming at the mouth and bitching about their experience, they're still discussing it which is the cornerstone of all good art. 2) He's deliberately and effectively getting rid of the fans that don't get it and never will.

What other band out there has the balls to go to such lengths to alienate such a large portion of their fan-base. These days its all about peddling to the fans and catering to the largest possible audience. He knows that this is going to have a negative impact on his wallet and he obviously doesn't care, which proves that he's in this game for all of the right reasons. As strange as it may sound considering his recent antics, his heart is in the right place and I think people will get that a few years from now.

And to top it all off, he's still delivering great music between the antics. It's just getting overlooked. I mean, look at these setlists! But what do people talk about after the shows? Set the Controls and the Everything is Beautiful rants. The fans that get it and are in on it get entertained while the fans that only come to hear 2 or 3 songs and could care less about the current band get left in the dust. It's quite brilliant actually.

I think it's actually entertaining to hear and watch the audiences reactions during these shows. I've never seen crowds so divided before. There are the fans that are loving every minute and the fans that can't believe what they are seeing. There is no middle ground here. I'm sure that there are plenty of people reading this that are going to disagree with everything I just said but, that is the beauty of it all.

Everyone signed up for the ego maniacal trip that is Corgan / Pumpkins (a lot of artists for that matter) when they bought the tickets. Were you entertained? Was it thought provoking? Did they do their jobs and serve the music? Expectations? Hmmnn...d8zzwn

Bear with me here, as I'm going on some serious speculation. But I can't help it, after reading everything Billy's been doing lately, something just keeps bugging me.

I think Billy's acting this way on purpose - to punish the fans.

Here's why I believe this: remember on the 2005/06/08 Vooruit, Belgium gig where he ranted at the guy saying "I don't know if you got the email, but the Pumpkins broke up". In particular, the part where he says he would sell more T-shirts and make a lot more money playing the old stuff and putting SP back together, but he didn't want to do that - he wanted to do something different and new (paraphrasing).

Then, on June 21st, he announced putting the band together again...less than 2 weeks later. Obviously Billy was feeling hurt and betrayed over the reaction he was getting about the new solo material and that the fanbase (and the music-loving public at large) didn't care what he did, if it wasn't the Pumpkins.

Zwan didn't match his expectations, the poetry book was giggled at, and the solo album was pretty much ignored (not my thoughts, just guessing at his state of mind). So I think he came to an epiphany that no matter what he does, it will never be as successful as the Pumpkins were.

So yes, he brought the band back together, but he's still mad at the fans for ONLY really wanting to see SP - a petulant child, saying "ok, fine! You want your precious Pumpkins back? Ok fine! But I'll make sure you won't like it!"

It's been a debated point on the quality of the music, but I wouldn't be surprised if Billy knows he phoning it musically, and playing long wanky versions of new songs live deliberately, and then ranting at the crowd for not 'getting it' (hence the "we don't know what the f**k you want").

And while I've never wanted to accuse the man of doing things strictly for money, I have to come to the conclusion that he's decided to make a ton of dough off this tour to make up for the failed projects that the fans 'didn't support'.

He probably still owes his advance back to Warners for Zwan/TFE, and he's gotta make the money up somehow. Why else would he release multiple versions of Zeitgeist - knowing the fans would have to pony up a lot more money to get the tracks, and/or the various limited editions. And all for an album that isn't that great! You can't tell me that the label 'forced him to'. This, the same guy who gave away so much free music to the fans now can't control what the label does with his music?

I don't think he's thinking about the long-term impacts of this, and even if he IS he doesn't care. He might have concluded that the Pumpkins will be the only thing he'll ever really be recognized for, and when he's finally tested the loyalty of even the most rabid fan for the last time, he'll once again pursue something different and then you'll never ask for the Pumpkins back again.

Or he'll just retire.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on November 19, 2008 7:26 AM.

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