Posted Tuesday, July 17, 2:35 p.m.
After years of pouting and heartache, 90’s alt-rockers the Smashing Pumpkins have returned to the spotlight in an attempt to appease their adoring fans by releasing their new album “Zeitgeist” (Reprise records) and going on tour. Last Tuesday, the day of “Zeitgeist’s” release, hundreds of Pumpkins fans stood in a line that snaked down V Street, NE along the walls of 9:30 Club and around the corner for a will-call only, “secret” show that was announced only to those on the venue’s online mailing list.
Although the show sold out in a matter of minutes, those fans lucky enough to score tickets through 9:30 Club’s online ticketing system were rewarded with a circus of pomp and circumstance outside the venue as Billy Corgan and the rest of his band pulled up in rented antique limousines and waved to the cheering crowd behind barricades.
Those waiting in the front of the line were given picketing signs that read, “I said YES to the mighty SP!” in a mock campaign that praised the Pumpkins return. A plethora of free Pumpkins shwag was given to the awaiting crowd – including T-shirts, buttons, stickers, mini-flags and signs – as they stood in line to pick up their tickets in front of a massive black and white American-style Pumpkins flag that hung from the roof of 9:30 Club. Adding to the circus outside the club, a barbershop quartet dressed in red and white striped jackets and matching hats sang to those waiting in line, as well as on stage inside just before the band came on.
Once on stage, frontman Billy Corgan and the band’s original drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, along with the other three new members of the band on bass, keyboards and guitar, delivered a solid show that lasted nearly three hours and covered an extensive set-list, covering both new songs from “Zeitgeist” and old classics from the band’s extensive catalogue from the 90’s, including singles from “Gish,” “Siamese Dream” and “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.”
Many of the Pumpkins’ new songs from “Zeitgesit” were performed well and the new band sounded very well rehearsed on the new songs that they wrote together, including the guitar-heavy single “Tarantula” and “C’mon Let’s Go.” On Pumpkins’ classics, though, the band seemed to rush through the heavier ones like “Zero,” “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “Today.”
Nevertheless, fans melted upon hearing the opening chords of “1979,” “Tonight Tonight,” “33,” “Rockit,” and “Disarm,” among others, with some turning around to hug the person next to them as Corgan, wearing a long-sleeve black and white prison uniform under a short-sleeve white T, let the crowd sing the first few lines of their favorite Pumpkins’ tunes.
Sometime in the middle of the set, Corgan busted out an acoustic guitar and gave the rest of the band a bit of a break as he played ‘unplugged’ versions of “Thirty Three” and “Rockit,” as well as some new tunes.
Corgan remained somewhat chatty throughout the show, telling the crowd at one point after a fan jokingly yelled “Freebird!” in between songs that, “Now is the time to yell all the dumb shit you want to yell now!”
For their (triple) encore, Chamberlin started by playing the opening snare drum roll of “Cherub Rock,” which the band nailed to the crowd’s delight as bright strobes blinded everyone while Corgan screamed, “LET ME OUUUT!” This was followed by “Fuck You” and an extended, psychedelic rendering of “Gossamer.” For the finale, Corgan said ‘thank you’ and ‘goodnight’ and sent everyone home by playing the ultra hard “An Ode to No One.”
Zeitgeist is the sixth Smashing Pumpkins album and the first release from the band since 2000. While the new album has received mediocre reviews, usually citing the lack of former integral Pumpkins members D’Arcy Wretzky on bass and James Iha on guitar, Corgan and Chamberlin seemed to have been able to reconnect both musically and personally as they march their band into the twenty-first century, albeit seven years later and with only two of the band’s original members.
“There have been different roads you could take,” said Corgan in a news release from an interview in April 2007.
“There’s the much-vaunted reunion road where people do not speak, but because there’s money to be made, they play but hate each other. We were very open to the idea of our former bandmates playing, but only under the circumstance of love of music, and love of playing new music. If those criteria weren’t present, then they weren’t going to be involved. Moving forward it really has to be about what the music asks of us.”
“We put a band together that’s really amazing,” added Chamberlin in the same interview. “We went through a lot of growing pains finding musicians and people who had the same kind of musicianship. I did a lot of the auditions myself while Billy was doing the overdubs on the album, and what I gravitated to was even more spirit than talent. When I found the right two people, it was very obvious.”
The Smashing Pumpkins will return to the D.C. area on Sunday, Aug. 5 to headline the second day of the Virgin Music Festival at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore along with 311, Velvet Revolver, Wu Tang Clan, Interpol, Regina Spektor and others. Visit www.virginfestival.com for more info.
This article appeared in the June 20, 2007 issue of the Hatchet.