|Pro tip: Always take a picture of a sign of the section that you parked in.|
Cage w/ Marilyn Manson and The Smashing Pumpkins @ DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, MI on August 5, 2015
Outdoor shows are dependent on the weather. Tonight was ideal, with a high of 80 and a low in the 60s. A sweltering or rainy night can rob a show of it's fun but you couldn't have ordered a more perfect night.
After the poor turnout at the last Detroit area Pumpkins show (at The Palace in October of 2012), I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of attendance. I was shocked to see a traffic jam going into the venue just after 7. The parking lot was full. Indeed, it was a nearly sold out show. This was one of those pairings where a similar yet different enough fanbase brought in a lot of people and worked.
We missed openers Cage entirely. I saw Marilyn Manson once many moons ago, and while I was too old to fall for his shtick the first time around his stage show always amused me. I watched the crowd with interest, as the early 30-somethings who were the kids that were his target audience in his heyday were way into it. He did all of his gimmicks. The stilts. The podiums. Stained glass windows with his image on them. Upside/ right side up crosses. His faux-Nazi imagery. Choreographed knocking over of fake speakers, mic stands, and throwing his mic down with a roadie waiting to pick it up. Ridiculous but fun all the same.
I never got into Manson for the simple fact that, for my money, he never had any songs. If he could have written catchy songs he would have had the whole package for teenagers growing up in McMansions during the dotcom bubble of the 1990s. As a show he is fun to watch, but I would never sit there and listen to his overly processed sounding music. Cripes, they even sounded processed live, with drum triggers and other cheats. He came on at 7:50, and his set was done in the sunlight, which made it look kind of ridiculous. I imagine that it would be far more effective indoors. An outdoor band Marilyn Manson is not. They still managed to entertain and put a smile on my face in spite of my complaints.
I have seen The Smashing Pumpkins many times over the years. I wondered which Billy Corgan we would get tonight. The pissy brat throwing a temper tantrum? The tortured artist pleading for acceptance? The big Rock show sell out who hates his fans as much as he hates himself? The calm acceptance that marked the past few times? None of these Billy Corgans took the stage tonight. Dare I say it, but this was the happiest Smashing Pumpkins show that I have ever seen. I was a tad worried that he would go heavy and ham-fisted to compete with Manson, digging up deadwood like Heavy Metal Machine, Superchrist, and Doomsday Clock. Those were luckily left in the mothballs this time out.
The Pumpkins strolled out to an intro at 9:26 and returning drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, in his first Detroit show with the band since 2007, did the familiar snare roll and bass drum thump. Cherub Rock it is. The Pumpkins' stage set was sparse, a contrast to Manson's. Some tarps of various length hung like rugs from the rafters and the rest was all lights. Corgan's voice was the best that I have ever heard it live. He sang everything in album form, forgoing the shrieks and screams that he used to do on this song live in the past. Instead of annihilating the song they actually played it. Bullet With Butterfly Wings was an interesting choice for a second song. Indeed, it seemed like a show in reverse, with the band opening with it's encore. Tonight, Tonight saw longtime guitarist Jeff Schroeder's rig go completely out. I was waiting for Billy to stop playing and throw a tantrum but to my surprise (and delight) he soldiered on without even mentioning it. The guitar tech was fiddling around with amps and pedals and all sorts of stuff, with Ava Adore being played without his guitar at all as well. Four singles in a row. The crowd was eating it up.
Now was the real test, as we got a song off of their newest album, Monuments To An Elegy. Drum + Fife sounded great live, and the crowd still seemed to be mostly into it. I would wager that the vast majority of this crowd was a hybrid of Manson fans or people who knew the hits and couldn't resist the lure of this double bill. Whatever gets ya in the door, I always say. One And All (We Are), another new one, also went over well. The Everlasting Gaze made sense for two reasons: One, it was a single, and two, it is one of their heavier songs, which worked for the Manson crowd. Zero fit the same mold.
The Crying Tree Of Mercury was brought out of the mothballs. I have never seen them do that one live before, so that was cool. I have always enjoyed the lyrics to this song. Mayonaise is an oldie that I was happy to hear brought back out. It has been 15 years since I've seen them do that one live. Disarm brought the crowd back to life, and Landlside had one of the best receptions of the evening.
Run2Me was a new one that seemed to stiff as far as the crowd was concerned. Lots of folks making a beeline for the beer line during that one.
1979 brought those same people running back to their seats. It was honestly quite funny to see. Thru The Eyes Of Ruby seemed especially poignant to me last night. Youth is wasted on the young indeed. I saw many people my age there. I recently celebrated my 42nd birthday, and the original fanbase is around my age, give or take. While I am not old I realize that I am not down with the kids these days, either. I suppose that every generation of Rock fans go through this eventually, when their once-new bands become Classic Rock of sorts. This notion was not lost on me during this song. I would like to think that I am somewhat cooler than the middle-aged Boston fans that I made fun of in the '90s, even though I am probably not.
Stand Inside Your Love is one of my favorites, although now it feels like it was the end of that era. It honestly feels like a lifetime ago that that song was released. The whole world has changed since then. Instead of lighters at shows all that you see are cellphones. Culturally we have bottomed out. The world is a mess. That didn't seem to stop people from plunking down $9 for a beer, though. I guess it makes staring at your phone while the band plays more enjoyable.
United States closed out the set. That song, and I use the term song loosely, is more about pummeling and a shuffle beat than having a real chorus or being catchy. It works well enough live but it went into an extended jam thing. The Pumpkins always did this in the '90s and it was brilliant or banal, depending on the night. The set ended around 10:56.
Due to DTE's 11 PM curfew we were shorted the planned encore of Today and Geek U.S.A. Damn it. There was no encore, Springton. So there you have it, a happy, upbeat Pumpkins show. I half expected this tour to not reach us, figuring that the bill would fall apart due to internal (ego) or external (soft sales) reasons. I am happy to be wrong on both counts, and I am guessing that everyone there felt the same way.