Friday, July 9, 2010

The Smashing Pumpkins @ The Orbit Room, Grand Rapids, MI July 8, 2010

The romantic notion that most people are a slave to is that the original lineup of a band, any band, is the best. I have been as guilty of this as anyone, especially with Kiss, but in the case of The Smashing Pumpkins, this isn't true. The current lineup of Billy Corgan, Jeff Schroeder, Mike Byrne, and Nicole Fiorentino buries the original lineup live. I saw the original lineup many times, and I can say without question that tonight's performance was far and away their best that I have ever seen. Yes, that's right. Better than St. Andrew's Hall on The Arising! tour. Better than the Farewell Concert at the United Center in Chicago in 2000. The Smashing Pumpkins circa 2010 are a sight to behold and a joy to experience.
The Orbit Room is an 1,800 seat theatre located in a stripmall behind a shopping mall. Weird and difficult to find, it defies Mapquest driving directions for it's exact location.

This was the stageset, seen here after set-up. Those flower petals had broken mirror shards which reflected light in a dizzying array of patterns and colors.

Showtime!! They tore into Astral Planes from the freshly minted Teargarden By Kaleidyscope Vol. 1: Songs For A Sailor. The crowd was enthusiastic if not entirely familiar with this song.

Next up: A way heavy version of Ava Adore, with a beefier chugging rhythm closer to Here Is No Why than the recorded version of the song. When I heard the opening of Hummer, I couldn't believe it. Aside from the main verse tease that the band did when I saw them in Toledo in January of 1997, I never got to see them do this one live. Mike Byrne is a fantastic drummer, like Jimmy Chamberlin on energy drinks. Every fill and beat was nailed with precision and power. Unbelievable.

The light show fried your eyes. Amazing. Strobes, moving lights, the whole bit. The as-yet-unreleased As Rome Burns, a live staple since 2008, sounded as good as ever. The rhythm is fantastic, and the guitar duels between Billy Corgan and Jeff Schroeder were a real treat. Schroeder has great tone and is simply a more capable guitarist than James Iha. He plays the Metal right, so to speak. A Song For A Son was met by groans from the 'Rat In A Cage' Hot Topic teenyboppers behind me who thankfully moved later on. Jeff played all of the organ parts on guitar, and it was spectacular. Today pulled the teenyboppers back in, and I was glad to hear it brought back to the set myself. It was played faithful to the album version.

Bleeding The Orchid sounded quite a bit different from the version on Zeitgeist but was good, ditto Eye, which boasted a different arrangement. Chalk that one up to another rarity that I had never seen performed live before tonight. Stand Inside Your Love was a welcome return to the setlist in its original arrangement. The hit that never was, this is among my all-time favorite Pumpkins songs. Bullet With Butterfly Wings was performed with sincerity and reverence, something that has not always been the case. I believe that this song became an anchor around Billy Corgan's neck at one point, with him feeling compelled to play it for Joe Sixpack. I am glad to see that he has gotten past that and can play the song with a straight face.

The band seemed to be having a great time, and was genuinely appreciative of the audience. One of the greatest things about Billy Corgan is his flaws. He makes mistakes, and often says the wrong thing, but who doesn't? It makes him far more human and relateable than most other Rock stars.
Next up was the oppressive United States. I didn't care for this song on Zeitgeist or live before tonight. Mike Byrne again did the impossible, replicating Chamberlin's insane shuffle beat. The song has more bounce and swagger now, as living with it and playing it live over the last couple of years has allowed it to mutate. The guitars sounded like bees buzzing, coming off with almost Flight of the Bumblebee level intensity. The guitar solos were insane, and the whole thing became a wall of sound. Pure rock fury, brothers and sisters.

Widow Wake My Mind off of TBK was a stark contrast, all short and catchy compared to the previous song. Perfect was done with a slightly altered arrangement but was a nice surprise. Then the familiar drumroll and bass drum thump intro...we got Cherub Rock! I haven't seen them do that song live since 2000. Most poseurs claim that they bought Gish the day it was released (they're often lying), but this was the song that got me into the band 17 years ago.

That's The Way (My Love Is) was done slightly different as well, but fit in well with the flow of the set. In fact, this set flowed very, very well, much better than the band has ever done live. This was truly a something-for-everyone set. Hits galore, album tracks, unreleased stuff...this show had it all. The as-yet-unreleased Owata was done in Rock format tonight, and it was jangly and poppy sounding. I like this version better than the acoustic version. Like the line in the song, 'Oh what a beautiful night'. Indeed, this was a beautiful night. Speaking of beautiful, their new bassist is much nicer to look at than any of her three predecessors.

Tarantula pummeled as usual. Then they did Tonight, Tonight sans keyboards. The group was a compact four piece, and seemed more lethal because of it.

The encore was Freak, the just-released on the site song from 2 days ago. Good, solid, classic Pumpkins Rock. Then came the song that I demand be recorded properly in a studio... Gossamer.

Tonight's version of Gossamer was around 15 minutes long, and was great. I snuck downstairs from the balcony during this song and worked my way up front.

So there you have it. They came, they saw, they Rocked our world. The Smashing Pumpkins blew my mind and melted my face clean off. I think that I've fallen in love with the band all over again, and that's really saying a lot for an obsessive fan like me.

1 comment:

  1. Serra Wallerius a.k.a. Brain surgery SP fan ;)July 9, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    This was only my third Pumpkins show even though I've been a fan for years (15!:)) and I didn't think they could top my first show with them, Orpheum, Boston, Oct 13 on Zeitgeist tour because of the mix of anticipation and the setlist... But this was far far better. Every single song was a delightful surprise!!! And done so well. His mistake during "Song For A Son" was endearing. :)