A guest report by William McClain.
Pumpkins Christen ‘Smasheville’
Saturday, June 23, 2007
By William McClain
“Taking over/we’re taking over,” Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan sang during the final song of the evening. And the crowd believed him.
Harbingers of the inevitable 90s alternative rock resurgence, the Pumpkins brought fresh songs and a new lineup Saturday to a tiny club in the mountains of North Carolina.
The sleepy college town of Asheville (known henceforth as Smasheville) buzzed with the news that the newly reformed rock titans chose it in which to make their stateside debut after a seven-year hiatus. Better still, the band would play a nine-night residency, performing songs from the upcoming album ‘Zeitgeist,’ songs written the day of each show, and a hearty helping of old favorites.
Lead by drummer Jimmy Chamberlain, the band took the stage about 10 p.m. to rapturous applause and proceeded to sandblast its way through nearly three hours of material. Opener ‘United States’ set the tone for the evening: subtle whispers and bone-crushing riffs gracefully guided by anthemic vocal melodies.
Band leader Billy Corgan remained essentially mute throughout the first third of the set, seemingly concentrated on presenting his latest material with clockwork precision. Chamberlain frequently sent winks and knowing glances to the feverish crowd.
Corgan became surprisingly playful as the set progressed. He joked about a fan offering him “weed” in the street (the same space cadet curiously explained to Corgan that Asheville was “built on a crystal”) and gave his own face a punitive slap after suggesting he might spend the night with a screaming female fan. The banter continued throughout the set, which sported the vibe of an inside look at a private Pumpkins jam session.
“You haven’t heard the record yet. You might not like it,” Corgan warned after fans cheered the new album. “God knows, you haven’t liked the last four.”
The die-hard crowd ignited with playful boos.
“You can take it,” Corgan assured. “I can. I wouldn’t put you through anything I can’t handle myself.”
Mid-set, Chamberlain, along with guitarist Jeff Schroeder, bassist Ginger Reyes, and touring keyboardist Lisa Harriton, left Corgan alone onstage for an intimate acoustic set which included ‘Rocket,’ ‘1979,’ the rare Gish cut ‘Daydream’ and a brand new tune penned the night before (“I beg your indulgence, for a change,” Corgan joked. “I hope to draw from the crystal.”)
Two lengthy, psychedelic jams – the new ‘Gossamer’ and ‘Silverfuck’ – pushed the show to its ear-bleeding apex, the latter like the sonic amalgam of a playground nursery rhyme and a fighter jet dive bombing Guitar Center.
The band at once brought the soaring crowd back to earth and sent them floating on their way with the closing “With Every Light.”
“The sun is beaming, radiating,” Corgan sang as he pointed to the crowd. “All the love we are creating.”
Corgan almost got it right: the love already existed; this show simply reinforced it.
* United States
* Doomsday Clock
* Bleeding the Orchid
* Bullet with Butterfly Wings
* Glass and the Ghost Children
* Lucky 13
* Come On (Let’s Go)
* Blue Skies Bring Tears
* For God and Country
* (unknown: “It’s a Song I Sing”)
* Tonight, Tonight
* With Every Light