After enduring well-publicized trouble, a band gets back to work.

by: Jon Pareles

Posted to listessa by Amy Hsueh

Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins apologized for "the delay" between the band's scheduled appearance at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, NJ, on July 14th, and the band's show there on Monday night. "not really our fault, but...," he said with a shrug.

The concert was postponed after the band's backup keyboardist, Jonathan Melvoin, died of a heroin overdose and its drummer, Jimmy Chamberlin, was fired for drug problems. With Matt Walker of Filter sitting in on drums, the Smashing Pumpkins are a changed band: fulltile, unambivalent arena-rockers, walloping one riff after another. It was a monolithic concert, but it built intensity almost to the end.

On its albums, the band has had more variety. In songs that vow to "crucify the insincere," the Smashing Pumpkins mirror the vertiginous mood swings of adolescence. The lyrics are racked by new desires and tortured by identity crises; he singer battles outside authority and his own confusion and insecurity. Hardrock rampages are offset by delicate tunes.

On stage, the band skipped most of the ballads. Mr. Corgan, the band's lead singer and main songwriter, pushed his nasal voice toward raw screeches; he and James Iha, on guitars, blasted power chords and set up dueling wails of feedback.

Where Mr. Chamberlin made his cymbals splash, Mr. Walker rumbled on tom-toms like Keith Moon of the Who, making the music even brawnier. Songs that started quietly, like "Disarm" or "T^2" were soon pounding away. As if to certify its new heftiness, in the middle of "xyu" the band inserted the riff from "smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple, the epitome of an unrepentant 1970's hard-rock band.

Yet the Smashing Pumpkins don't want to be simple-minded rockers. With conspicuous exceptions like "bwbw", Mr. Corgan's songs are imagistic and ambiguous.

The band, with D'Arcy on bass and Dennis Flemion on keyboards, performed amid arty trappings : video screens showing kaleidoscopic images and antique films (including Georges Melies's 1902 "Voyage to the Moon" and early special effects showcase) to suggest a combination of psychedelia and science fiction. And the band turned its final encore into a rambling 20-minutes jam, deliberately dissipating the concert's momentum. [I don't agree at all.. but then again, I'm biased...]

Perhaps the Smashing Pumpkins wanted to prove they hadn't forgotten other options.

Opening the concert was Grant Lee Buffalo, a trio led by Grant Lee Phillips. Drawing equally on u2, the Beatles, and REM, the group may be on the bill to replace the grandiosity and melodrama of the songs that the Smashing Pumpkins didn't play.

The bands are to perform tonight at Madison Square Garden.

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