It was obvious as they took to the stage that this was big gig for City Riots. Playing to their home crowd, the well-groomed, Adelaide quartet were giving it their all, and played a tight and tidy set. The band recently toured in the United States, playing the Cultures Collide Festival, and have also recored their debut album in Chicago, with Smashing Pumpkins producer Bjorn Thorsrud. City Riots have Kings of Leon looks and a guitar-heavy, eighties-vocals sound, which is a combination for commercial success. Though it was quite obvious that the crowd was only there to see the main attraction, there is no doubt that landing a support spot with The Smashing Pumpkins will aid in propelling City Riots towards popularity.
The Smashing Pumpkins stepped onto the stage of the Entertainment Center Theatre through a haze of blinding blue light and were greeted by ample applause. The band had no time for greetings, however, and were straight into it, starting the night off with “The Fellowship”, a track off of the yet-to-be-released Teargarden by Kaleidyscope II: The Solstice Bare. They followed this up with another brand new song, “Lonely is the Name”, which is yet to be released in any form. An interesting way to begin a set, but not unexpected coming from a band who are in a constant battle between past incarnations and the future of their music.
Fans may not have yet heard these songs, but it will not be long before they will be available online. The Smashing Pumpkins have been continuously sharing new music through the internet, with tracks from both recent EP’s Teargarden by Kaleidyscope I: Song for a Sailor and Teargarden II being released as free download. The Smashing Pumpkins pioneered online music distribution back in 2000 when they gave away Machina II for free. Despite the freshness of these opening numbers, the crowd do seemed engaged, but there is no denying the sudden lift in energy when the opening guitar riff of Today rings out across the theater.
The Smashing Pumpkins set, while loaded with a substantial number of more recent tracks, did include an impressive list of favourites from earlier albums such as “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and “Ava Adore”. Traditionally subdued tracks such as “Shame” and “Stumbleine” were utterly transformed for the live show into much more heavier, rockier versions, keeping up the high energy of the bands performance.
Some of the nights standouts came from two of the bands later albums, “Stand Inside Your Love” (the second single from 2000’s Machina/The Machines of God album) followed by a rumbling, whirlwind performance of “Tarantula” from Smashing Pumpkins first album post-reformation, 2007’s Zeitgeist. “A Song for a Son”, another recent track from Teargarden by Kaleidoscope I was a complete surprise, being a compelling and beautiful number when played live. The main set was rounded off with crowd-pleasers “Tonight Tonight” and “Cherub Rock”, leaving the everyone enthralled and eagerly awaiting more.
Although the band wasn’t formally introduced to the crowd, Billy Corgan is joined in this current line-up by guitarist Jeff Schroeder who has been a band member since the reformation in 2007, and more recently by bassist Nicole Fiorentino and drummer Mike Byrne. During the show it is revealed that the young drummer was not even born when the Smashing Pumpkins first came in to being in 1987. Byrne is clearly a great talent, cutting loose on the drums at the end of United States in what can only be described as a frenzy.
There was little other banter throughout the set, except at one point, for reasons that perhaps only he knows, Billy decided to express his thoughts on what may have influenced the punters to pay $80-odd to see his band. Perhaps he was disappointed at the less-than capacity crowd, or maybe there wasn’t enough electricity in the air for his liking, but seemingly out of nowhere there came the (now too familiar) speech regarding lack of support for new material. Actually it went along the lines of “Generation X is scared of the future and clinging to the past.”
Corgan is such an eloquent and intelligent guy, that it disappoints me to witness this monologue time and again. At a glance the majority of the crowd appeared to be Gen Y, which made it seem pointless for Corgan to unburned himself on those who had turned up to the show in frustration at those who had not. Regardless of this, everyone there seemed to be happily enthralled throughout the entire set, which consisted more of new or obscure songs than it did nineties throw-backs.
This was not more evident than as the show was rounding off with “Gossamer”, the lengthy track that only gets whipped out during live shows, and varies in time-frame from anywhere between 15 to over 30 minutes (this rendition clocked in at about the 17 minute mark). It is a good sign when the crowd isn’t lost during a quarter-of-an-hour masturbatory, psychedelic guitar improv session. The reasoning behind leaving the crowd with an encore such as this can only be speculated upon. It seems that Billy might be stuck between two emotional driving-forces: that desire to play to a sold-out, euphoric and engaged crowd, and the desire to be free as an artist to play whatever he wants and fully explore the possibilities of the bands sound on stage. Numbers such as “Gossamer” and “United States” are made to play live, giving the band this freedom to cut loose with endless jamming sessions and are never performed exactly the same way twice. To many audience members this is worth more than just cookie-cutter live renditions of the hits.
When a band has as long and varied a history as The Smashing Pumpkins, there is always going to be tracks that are missed and albums that are untouched. The only reference to the Gish era, we joked, was Billy’s shirt. The audience wasn’t left wanting, with Corgan managing a fulfilling mix of impressive new songs and favourites. As “Gossamer” came to a close and the band said their goodbye’s the applause continued, prompting Corgan to remain on stage for a short while, thanking the crowd for their appreciation. Billy Corgan is nothing if not one of the best guitarists of his generation, an amazing performer, and it is his ability to offer up these unique performances that make The Smashing Pumpkins such a great live act.