"No Place Like Home: Horizon Audience Can't Get Enough of Smashing Pumpkins"
Show review of the October 5 show
Chicago Tribune -- October 7, 1996
by Greg Kot
(Transcribed by Jason J. Briggeman)
It was homecoming weekend for the Smashing Pumpkins, and while the show on the stage at the Rosemont Horizon was full of fierce beauty, the show in the seats was nearly as good.
Once a band reaches the point in its career where it can fill a basketball arena three times over -- as the Pumpkins did Friday through Sunday -- it's no longer just about the music.
The Chicago band isn't much for lasers, dry ice or theatrics -- though the film festival that whirled on three screens behind the band had its moments of both psychedelic grandeur and comic relief. But the Horizon shows were arena-rock spectacles that belong in the books next to Van Halen in '84 and Bon Jovi in '86 for sheer audience rapture -- or should that be rupture?
From Saturday's show, arena-rock moment No. 1: Lights go down, music swells -- it's the beautifully doleful instrumental that opens the Pumpkins' "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" double-CD -- and several hundred lighters turn it into a seance. Hokey, but it's hard not to feel the vibe: This is our band, our town, our night.
Midshow flashback: I remember a friend down the block when I was a kid who used to stand for an hour on the street corner with arm raised, clutching his pennies whenever he heard the distant bell of the ice-cream man. Flash-forward to Saturday and arena-rock moment No. 2: A young man stands throughout the entire concert saluting the stage with an upraised red rose. Next to him, a companion fervently tries to keep his lighter aflame to illuminate the flower, presumably so their ice-cream vendor -- singer Billy Corgan? bassist D'Arcy? guitarist James Iha? -- will see it in the darkness from 50 yards away.
Arena-rock moment No. 3: The band invites a dozen people from the audience to dance during the encore of "1979." Corgan asks a mini-skirted, slightly flustered volunteer where she's from. She responds, "Chloe."
As the mostly female dance revue exits the stage, they try to shake Corgan's hand, kiss his cheek, touch his shaved head. Corgan looks amused, then steps to the microphone: "Time to clean that wound with a jagged piece of glass." And the Pumpkins are off, led by Matt Walker's drum barrage, making like pit bulls again.
As arena-rock shows must be, this was full of crowd-pleasing moments rather than risky ones -- the band played virtually nothing from its pre-"Mellon Collie" days except for the most widely-exposed tracks from the 1993 "Siamese Dream." What stands out is that for a band that has never been particularly celebrated for its ability to craft catchy singles, the Pumpkins have a bunch of memorable tunes. It's hard to argue with "1979" and "Tonight, Tonight" as two of the most delectable pieces of ear candy released this year. And the break-of-dawn sweep of "Muzzle" makes it a terrific set-closer.
But for all the applause-guaranteed moments, the Pumpkins weren't going through the motions. The show was vastly different in pacing, feel and sequencing from the ones performed only two weeks ago at Madison Square Garden in New York.
And the sonic daring of the back-to-back guitar excursions -- "Thru the Eyes of Ruby" and "Porcelina of the Vast Oceans" -- was thrilling. With their unconventional arrangements, both compositions flirt with chaos. As the guitars of Iha and Corgan conjured feedback on "Porcelina," they made the noise songful, the amplifiers cry, and it was gorgeous.
Arena-rock moment No. 4: Corgan lifts his guitar, still radiating feedback, overhead. It catches a spotlight and for a flash it gleams like Excalibur.
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