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Billy, Don't Be a Hero

Smashing Pumpkins
Salad Days: The Smashing Pumpkins strike a pose right before the sudden summer departure of troubled drummer Jimmy Chamberlain (upper right).

Photo by Yelena Yumchuk

Smashing Pumpkins fumigate the
San Jose Arena--many stay

By Todd S. Inoue

While awaiting the arrival of the Smashing Pumpkins on Monday (Dec. 16), a shoulder-sitter on the packed San Jose Arena floor obliged the mostly male crowd's requests to "show us your tits" and received hearty applause.

And you thought this passé shred of rock & roll concert inanity was confined to Guns 'n' Roses? To quote Shirley Manson of opening band Garbage, "Stupid girl."

It was only a hint of the showboaty excesses that followed. The Pumpkins are a hit-and-miss affair live. The band's habit of following a fabulous performance (Fillmore reopening/Kezar Stadium) with a dreadful one (Lollapalooza '94/Tibetan Freedom Concert) has been well documented locally.

The Pumpkins can soar when they want to, and yet alternatively self-implode half-way through or succumb to masturbatory excesses like infinite soloing and pointless noisy doodling. So which Smashing Pumpkins punched in last Monday night?



Smash Online:

This site has followed the Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness tour since Dec. 15, 1995. Each tour date is reviewed by a number of fans and detractors offering interesting and exhaustive insight.

Todd Inoue not only reviewed the show, he wrote down the set list too.

Metro's Gina Arnold reviewed the Pumpkins' latest album, Aeroplane.


Burning Pumpkins

Across a stage shadowed by a Burning Man-like lighting rig and movie screens, the Pumpkins kept mostly to themselves. The lineup for the show was bassist D'Arcy, drummer Matt Walker (who fills in for disgraced sticksman Jimmy Chamberlin), guitarist/vocalist Billy Corgan and guitarist James Iha.

Keyboardist Dennis Flemion missed the trip, so when the Pumpkins walked on stage, the entrance suite, "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness," came courtesy of a DAT machine.

The Pumpkins measured up to current arena-rock standards, summoning up sheets of acid-rock rain. The guitar playing fit well inside the corrugated tin can of the San Jose Arena, although D'Arcy's bass could barely be heard over the twin-guitar assault, enhanced by Walker's heavy percussion work. Where Chamberlin was decorative in his subtlety, Walker hit his rolls and cymbals with full abandon.

The crowd was amped. "Where Boys Fear to Tread" and "Zero" opened three mosh pits. "Fuck You (an ode to no one)" opened another. Musically, Siamese Dream's "Today" and "Cherub Rock" were speeded up and rendered playful. An exquisite "Ruby" followed, tailed closely by the surprise inclusion of "Drown."

With all the good feelings pouring forward, an honest show seemed imminent. How wrong. The concert quickly fell victim to Corgan's spotlight hogging.

Earlier in the set, a shirt had been thrown over a red spotlight at his feet just before the coda of "Tonight, Tonight." Corgan paused to remove the offending shirt and finished the song, en fuego.

The bonfire of the vanities didn't end there. Instead of playing three songs in one encore, the band split after each number, bathing in the screams that greeted each successive re-entrance. Like good cream, the bit turned sour from overexposure.

During the mesmerizing second encore, "XYU," the stage went black, and Corgan's voice pealed out the line "And into the eyes of the jackal, I say ka-boom" with immense force. He walked over to his amplifier, eliciting a cloud of noise from it. Next, he wandered to the microphone, screamed into it four times, knocked it over and stomped off.

Taking Off

That was cool, but the band wasn't finished yet. Like Sarah Winchester constantly building onto her mystery house, the Pumpkins didn't know when to stop. "The Aeroplane Flies High," rendered with tribal drums and psychedelic guitar from its Gish days, segued into a half-hour version of "Silverfuck."

This routine has become predictable and rife with pretension--and deserves to be put to sleep. The group experimented with its equipment, making ungodly noises. Corgan gesticulated before ending the number with an expletive-filled rant and a "thanks for sticking around." At last, the band was off, for good.

By now, every Smashing Pumpkins fan has been through this self-indulgent wringer. "Silverfuck" was so long, an entire album's worth of tracks could have been played in its stead--and should have.

During some time-killing stage banter, Iha proclaimed that "rock & roll is dead."

"Yeah, we killed it," said Corgan.

No shit.

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