Review: The Smashing Pumpkins, Festival Hall, Melbourne
As far as rockstars go, Billy Corgan is one of the old-school prickly types.
He has the pretentiousness of a man who knows he created one of the biggest bands of a generation, The Smashing Pumpkins; had epic run-ins with his own former bandmembers and chewed out many a crowd if it hasn’t dared to appreciate his own musical sensitivities.
But that was the old Billy. The new old Billy (because he’s 43 now) is loved up thanks to his budding romance with Australian Veronica Jessica Origliasso. And it shows.
Promoting the Pumpkin’s latest album “Teargarden by Kaleidyscope”, Corgan put on an old style, electrifying rock and roll show with a new style of humour and enthusiasm for Melbourne punters at Festival Hall on Friday night.
As the music industry falls over itself to sign feel-good boy bands in skinny jeans and melodic rockers to pit against the Kings of Leon, a return to the raw, rock edge of the 1990s was like a breath of fresh air. It might have been recycled air, but it tasted good.
With the swagger of a real rockstar, Corgan commanded the stage from the first second. He launched into leaked new song “The Fellowship”, but didn’t wait long before treating the crowd to old hit “Today”. His voice was incredible and made just about every song they call “rock” that's charting now sound moany and trite. This was grandpa showing all those pretty rock boys how it is really done. It was a balanced set, with newer material maybe slightly dominating. However, there were plenty of older hits such as “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”, “Zero”, “Cherub Rock” and “Tonight Tonight”.
For the first hour it seemed like we had the prickly Billy of yore. He directed not a word at the crowd, doing his talking through his music and incredible guitar skills (including playing a solo with his teeth). But after the crowd had almost given up on getting even a “hello” from the great man, Billy launched into a bizarre monologue of the sort tourists revel in. “Your rugby players look like skinny tennis players!” he pronounced. “’C’mon’ – what does that mean?” It got increasingly bizarre when he started talking about the size of his penis and then professed he was dating the best looking girl in Australia. He explained the rant away by professing, “I’m on drugs!” to a cheering audience.
From there Corgan seemed to loosen up. He actually cracked up laughing in the middle of “Tonight Tonight” when a male fan got completely starkers and hopped on his mate’s shoulders.
But his loved up mood didn’t last long and he was back in self-indulgent “I’m a big rockstar” mood for the encore. After covering “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, the band then launched into “Gossamer”, an epic song that bored the tits off many punters who started leaving. It was a disappointing way to close a show, but not surprising. For as wonderful as Corgan is, he just can’t seem to follow through. He wrote some of the biggest songs of a generation (they were the soundtrack to my angsty teen years), yet he hasn’t been able to follow those golden years with anything very impressive since. How can someone so talented use up all that talent over a 15-year or so period in the 1990s and have nothing left?
Hopefully his new romance with a girl half his age will revive those younger halcyon days and us kids of 1990s grunge can finally find something worth listening to again. Until then, we can revel in still being able to watch a proper, sweating, screaming rock show minus the floppy hair posturing of today's "rock" bands.