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.