Live review: The Smashing Pumpkins @ the Ogden TheatreBy Allen Klosowski | October 11th, 2011 | 7 comments
A lot has changed since the first time I saw the Smashing Pumpkins in 1993, when they were headlining along with the likes of Blind Melon. This time, the Pumpkins are playing a sold out 12 city tour to warm up for their larger tour next year.
Time marches on. Billy Corgan and I are now equally bald. Founding members James Iha, D’Arcy Wretzky and Jimmy Chamberlain are all long gone, and the only original member left is Corgan. Blind Melon is no longer a band, and the Pumpkins, themselves, have taken more creative turns over the past 20 years than a David Lynch production. Oh, and ticket prices are markedly different at around $50 each, which didn’t stop the band from selling out the Ogden Theatre.
Admittedly, Corgan was always the main creative driver in the band, recording most of the studio material himself. But are the new Pumpkins the same as the old Pumpkins, or are they the equivalent of Guns ‘N Roses without Slash and Duff McKagan? I couldn’t help but wonder if last night was going to be a live version of the making of “Chinese Democracy.”
From the opening note it seemed that Corgan was out to prove that the current incarnation of the Pumpkins could rock as hard as before. The band came on strong, loud and hard. Digging deep with cuts like “Starla” from “Pisces Iscariot,” “Geek U.S.A” and “Mayonaise” from “Siamese Dream,” “Window Paine” and “Siva” from “Gish,” “Muzzle” from “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” the Pumpkins brought an uptempo fury to earlier works.
In typical Pumpkins style, absent were the songs that made them radio staples, such as “1979” and “Today,” but those songs weren’t what the fans came for in the first place. Newer tracks “Lightning Strikes,” with Corgan bringing forth crunchy new riffs from his white Fender Stratocaster didn’t resonate as well with crowd. Neither did the brand new “Oceania” or a stumbling take on the fan favorite “Obscured.”
There were lots of lulls in show, and the enthusiasm of the fans ebbed and flowed throughout the night. There were brief bursts of wild enthusiasm mixed with periods where even Corgan looked slightly bored. It was a tough crowd to play to, as with any band that has been around for 20 years. Do you rely on the old stuff, or do like some bands do and pretend like it never existed? The Pumpkins brought a balanced mix of both.
Ultimately, the night was filled with triumphs. The Pumpkins have been through a lot as a band, and the driving renditions of “Cherub Rock” and “Thru the Eyes of Ruby” showcased a band rough around the edges but once again poised for taking over arenas once this tour tightens up their chops.
During the set closing “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” Corgan sang with emphasis, “Can you fake it, for just one more show?” Indeed they can.
The new band is musically tight, equally loud, and even seems a bit more talented than the original members. Corgan, always the reluctant rock star, seemed much more comfortable in his skin than in previous performances. Just one question to Mr. Corgan, do all of your bassists have to be attractive females? I mean, really, c’mon!
Allen Klosowski is the social media strategist for The Denver Post. Check out his photos online.
Nathan Iverson is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb.