Gig Reviews

Smashing Pumpkins & City Riots, Festival Hall – 15/10/2010

Seminal 90s rock band Smashing Pumpkins returned to Australia with their latest incarnation, the polarising front man Bily Corgan the only remaining founding member.

City Riots kicked to a relatively empty, but quickly filling, Festival Hall. Their set wasn’t anything special but provided inoffensive background music to punters chatting about setlist possibilities of the main act. The Adelaide quartet’s enthusiasm unfortunately didn’t affect a majority of the crowd.

After a short changeover, Corgan appeared with his new (and much younger) band mates. Opening with two new songs, it was clear that Corgan was still popular with the fans he won over in the 90s. Today and Ava Adore got good receptions early, with the former producing a huge sing-along as the blinding stage lights blared into the packed crowd’s reminiscing eyes.

New material flew over the heads of most, with A Song for a Son being the pick of the bunch. Extended versions of songs didn’t help any appreciation of new Teargarden by Kaleidyscope tracks. Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Cherub Rock and Zero all gave the mosh a healthy workout, but many good feelings were lost during Corgan’s lengthy speech.

After keeping chat to a minimum, Corgan’s bubble burst mid-set with a prolonged glory speech, in which he managed to thank himself in several different ways. It left a bitter taste in the mouths of many, but not one playful heckler (who returned naked during the main set’s closer).

Ending the set with Tonight, Tonight – played minus the orchestral element – was a nice touch that was shattered by a below-par encore. Returning to the stage after forcing every clap out of each punter present, Corgan and guitarist Jeff Schroeder played a cover of Dixies Chicks-via-Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide that went down surprising well. Then it all came crashing down, with the 20-minute-plus Gossamer rearing its ugly, boring and draining head. It was a poor choice of song to end on as many left with thoughts of what could have been.

With some of the best rock songs of the 90s under his belt, Corgan is (or was) undoubtedly one of rock’s best writers. Now it seems he’s desperately hanging on. Nevertheless, his great songs are still great songs.

(Photo credit: Sarah Shepherd)

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