"Pumpkins end tour smashing the obvious"
Thurs., Feb. 6, 1997
by: Keith Spera, music writer
(Thanks to DavidM@cjunnet.com for typing this out for us)
For the first 90 mnutes of the Smashing Pumpkins' tour finale at the UNO Lakefront Arena Wednesday, frontman Billy Corgan and company seemed intent on repeating the same mistakes that made thier November appearance in Biloxi, Miss., such a mess.
The bass and drums were drowned out in a muddled, highend din. Corgan, his rasp even more ragged than usual, oversang badly. He bleated "despite all my rage/ I am still just a rat in a cage" as the band raced through the chorus of "Bullet With Butterfly Wings," undermining the song's impact. The rigors of a long tour seemed to have taken a toll; even the segment in which the audience members were brought onstage to dance during the bouncy "1979" was dispirited.
Alluding to his frequently expressed desire to move the Pumpkins away from hard rock in favor of acoustic music, Corgan quipped, "We hope you enjoy your future in rock 'n' roll - we certainly won't have much to do with it." At that point, I, for one, was not inclined to lament the electrified Pumpkins' possible passing.
But then things got interesting.
This being the final night of the epic 180-date "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness Tour", the Pumpkins chucked arena rock convention in a series of encores as long as the regular set. First, they brought out The Frogs, an avant-garde trio that records for a small label partially owned bt the Pumpkins; Corgan joined them for a ditty poking fun at rock stardom, laughing as he sang, "I only play for money/ I don't give a f--- about the fans."
Then the Pumpkins got serious. Against a backdrop of amorphous shapes and colors, illuminated by incessant strobes, Corgan, second guitarist James Iha, bassist D'Arcy and drummer Matt Walker embarked on a journey of psychedelia, making only fleeting references to formal songs. Corgan even howled his way through a long fantasia monologue that indicated he still has some issues to resolve, especially when it comes to women.
Similar jams on past Pumpkins tous amounted to pointless squalls of feedback. But this was much more, a maelstrom of power and beauty and majesty - especially the final, uninterrupted 30-minute marathon. As D'Arcy and Walker laid a foundation, the two guitarists set off into the stratosphere, Iha' s warm, fuzzy tone contrasting with Corgan's searing lead. Then met up, playing briefly in tandem before setting off once again.
They finally crashed to a halt at midnight, three hours after the opening song. The house lights came up to reveal many fans had already bailed out - a point not lost on Corgan. "You see all those empty seats?" he said to the remaining diehards. "That's not who we play for - we play for you. I want you to remember, we won't forget who you are - so don't you forget about us."
No one who had experienced the jaw-dropping 90 minutes likely will. If the Pumpkins do take the unplugged path in the future, this was a devistatingly effective final statement on the hard rock phase of thier career.
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