The fact that The Smashing Pumpkins have a new album out (Oceania, released June 2012) is “old news” according to front man Billy Corgan, but if you’re seeing the band on their current tour, you’re not going to get away without hearing the whole thing live. For Friday night’s San Francisco crowd at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, that didn’t appear to be a problem.
The band took the stage a few minutes ahead of schedule and, without fanfare launched into the first song after which Corgan encouraged the initially hesitant crowd to give it up loudly. Quasar proved to be not only the perfect album opener, but set opener as well, and no doubt grabbed the audience’s attention as the band worked it’s way sequentially through the album, start to finish. The band was set up near the front of the Civic’s stage, make for a more intimate feel. Behind them, the majority of the vast space was dominated by a giant orb hanging from the rafters which served as a video screen with abstract imagery that served as a fitting backdrop as the band got into the more ethereal/sleepy tracks such as Violet Rays and My Love is Winter .
With a stable line-up for a few years now, the current incarnation of the Pumpkins have clearly gelled … relaxed but tight as can be. Schroeder teased the crowd early in the set with bit of Eddie Van Halen. Nicole Fiorentino was dressed to the nines and looked pin-up-perfect, barely breaking beyond a glow by the end of the set. Byrne kept the beats and only stepped out behind the drum kit to man the keys on a few songs late in the set. Billy was Billy … nailing his signature vocals and clearly soaking up the vibe from the fans.
About 7 songs in, Billy paused the music to give the lay of the land for those that were not already privy to what was afoot … all of Oceania and then a 10 minute break (which they never ended up taking) followed by the “classics” to which he jokingly rattled off tunes from their 90’s contemporaries Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden drawing a healthy chuckle from the crowd.
A cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity signaled the transition to what Billy had previously referred to as the classics. X.Y.Z. got the crowd amped up and buy the time they hit Bullet With Butterfly Wings, the crowd was barely able to contain itself from violating the No-Moshing Rule (seriously, how does one stand still during “despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage?”) and resulted in security being planted in the crowd to keep the peace.
Break time again for the band as the band busted out a KISS jam minus bass (Nicole watching on clearly amused but with no intention of participating) before Bill went on to vamped on everything from politics, weed, women, and baseball. Corgan eventually fessed up, “I’m old, I need to breathe.” After a guitar duel that eventually had Corgan humbly conceding the win to Schroeder, Nicole quipped, “Are you breathing yet?” … clearly ready, as was the crowd, to get back to the music.
There are certain bands that seem to have a special connection with certain cities and it was clear that that’s true for San Francisco and the Pumpkins. Billy Corgan seems to have a certain oneness with the SF crowd and appeared genuinely grateful for the night which featured a whopping 2 hour and 15 minutes set. There are not a lot of bands out there that put out that kind of effort.
- The Celestials
- Violet Rays
- My Love is Winter
- One Diamond, One Heart
- Pale Horse
- The Chimera
- Space Oddity
- Tonight, Tonight
- Bullet With Butterfly Wings
- A Song for a Son
- Ava Adore
- Cherub Rock
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