Smashing, Indeed -- Pumpkins Give Shattering Performance at Metro

Chicago Tribune - August 13, 1993

(Thanks to FraPeters@aol.com)

There was a steam from a thousand-plus bodies at close quarters, and also a palpable electricity in the air Thursday at Metro. When the Smashing Pumpkins took the stage for the first of three sold-out shows, singer Billy Corgan's scream both summed up and shattered the moment.

The Pumpkins' new record, Siamese Dream, entered the pop charts last week at number ten, the highest charting debut by a Chicago band in several eons.

But if Corgan's scream was one of celebration, in which the audience was eager to share, it also signaled a renewed intensity to keep pushing forward. The Pumpkins have always thrived by taking chances, some of them threatening to implode the song at hand, if not the band itself.

Corgan kept walking the plank at Metro, at one point nearly derailing "Silverfuck" with a soliloquy on how "everyone's a liar, your priest is a liar, your mother's a liar," and so on. the song grounded to a halt, only to regather itself like a punch-drunk boxer for one final flurry, with Corgan finishing things off atop a speaker cabinet with a Hendrixian "Star-Spangled Banner."

His shoulders perpetually stooped, Corgan looks uncomfortable in his 6-foot-3 1/2 inch frame, yet he commands the stage and the audience's attention by keeping his mood and mannerisms unpredictable. Similarly, the Pumpkins' songs veer from gossamer delicacy to cyclonic fury and back again, with virtually no stops in between.

Holding it all together was drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, who kept the groove pulsing during even the walking-on-eggshell passages of "Soma" and "Rhinoceros," while catapulting the likes of "Cherub Rock," and "Geek U.S.A." into the stratosphere with carpet-bomb assault that evoked Mitch Mitchell in all his "Purple Haze" glory.

Taciturn bassist D'Arcy navigated the ebb-and-flow rhythms expertly, while Corgan and James Iha wielded their guitars the way two sculptors might use chisels. Rather than trading solos, the two guitarists created a thick, syrupy drone on "I Am One" and built a towering sonic edifice on "Hummer" only to tear it down and then rebuild it at twice the tempo.

Opening were Uptighty, a 12-piece funk band lacking grease and grit, and Red Red Meat, a most promising quartet with a jagged sense of songcraft and an erratic, undeveloped stage presence.

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