Thursday, August 21, 2008
Mizner Park Amphitheatre, Boca Raton
Better Than: Not showering and looking for Molly for four days at a jam-band festival to get the same experience.
If they weren’t originally called an alt-rock goth and grunge-scene staple, you’d swear Smashing Pumpkins were strictly a Bonnaroo-style jam band based on tonight’s show. The extensive set list (22 songs) was even more drawn out by the impromptu-like rock out sessions that every selection essentially became. With no opening act and a simple onstage décor of long rectangular reflective panels that featured alternating hues, this evening was directly focused on Smashing Pumpkins and their music.
Although lead man Billy Corgan and his crew presented a pretty flawless performance, it was the lingering guitar and drum solos that turned this otherwise captivated audience into a frat-house lawn party. I dig a good extended jam any time, but I mean, after a few songs, we get it, Billy Corgan can play guitar. We don’t really want to wail out with him for 10 minutes in the middle of every song. Did we come to see the band rehearse? Not even halfway into the night, fans began to chitchat, pass out, start fist fights (Yeah, really, I mean I don’t know about you but when I hear Smashing Pumpkins I just wanna kick some major ass), and get completely wasted, rather than actually pay attention to what was happening onstage.
Corgan’s long-winded solos and predictable set list (the same one played at the most recent shows) seemed more self-gratifying than audience-driven. I almost wondered if the band had lost touch with what the fans wanted. It’s not that the gig was a total bore. When they played (noticeably faster, sloppier versions of) hits like “Tonight, Tonight,” “Today” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” the crowd went expectedly wild and got super-charged. Even though the songs didn’t sound as polished (weird, huh?) it was these moments that made this show worthwhile. When you have a catalogue of music like the Pumpkins have, is it asking too much to switch things up from show to show? However, it was the lengthy variations of songs like “Transformer,” “Heavy Metal Machine” and “United States” that made this somewhat of a snooze. When I say the crowd got restless, it’s not because they only wanted the biggest hits. In fact, one of the most surprising thrills was when everyone went wild during “G.L.O.W,” a new single only heard live. Clearly, these folks were well versed with the material.
Dressed in a tight long-sleeve T-shirt and silver metallic skirt, the pasty bald Corgan didn’t make any comments to the crowd until well into the evening, at which point he made a remark about whether any of us remember when alternative music was really alternative, before saying, “We’ve started a tattoo fund for all the posers, there’s a lot of full sleeves out there just waiting to rock your world.”
It was a strange audience demographic without a doubt. Had the ’90s alt-rock fans grown up to be this mix of preppy 30-year-olds and 50-somethings, with babies in tow, who wore name-brand ensembles like True Religion jeans and a T-shirt with the same brand name planted across the chest? Most curious were the original ’80s mullet-cut dudes wearing glittery Ed Hardy or faded Lynard Skynard T-shirts with fanny packs. It made you want to ask whether they were at the right show. What happened to the goth culture? Where was the diehard we’ll-never-stop-wearing-Converse-and-flannel crowd from the recent Pearl Jam shows? There were a handful of watered-down vampire wannabes, but for the most part, this was a rowdy after-work corporate scene.
The band proceeded to rock us marathon-concert style. Breaking up the monotony was when Corgan’s young niece, Ava, joined the group for “Once Upon A Time.” It was a stunt based more on cuteness than any display of prodigy talent, but endearing nonetheless. The band wrapped up the show with an encore of “We Only Come Out At Night,” and a quirky cover of Mungo Jerry’s “In The Summertime,” during which all the members had a go at playing the kazoo. It was a bizarre closer to say the least. I almost felt like we had been robbed. Couldn’t they have given us some “1979,” “Disarm” or “Cherub Rock” instead? Most of the onlookers didn’t seem to mind being silly at this point. Hell, by now, a quarter of them were three sheets to the wind. At least they seemed to have a lot of fun, and a couple of them have black eyes and hangovers at work today to prove it. With the rain showers, bad pizza, intoxicated masses, portable johns, grass stains and jam-athon, I almost felt like we were all doin’ the ’Roo.
Personal Bias: Smashing Pumpkins seemed much more inspired when I caught them at Virgin Fest last summer.
Random Detail: Corgan is collaborating with Courtney Love (whom he dated before she got with Kurt) on her forthcoming album.
By the Way: Fannypacks are not, and were never, cool.
-- Monica Cady