The Smashing Pumpkins December 13, Brooklyn Bowl
Seeing The Smashing Pumpkins live since the band’s 2007 “reunion” (of the original members, only frontman Billy Corgan remains) has been a hit-or-miss affair. The mercurial Corgan is just as likely to fill setlists with obscure B-sides and lengthy versions of newer album tracks as he is to perform the hits that made the Pumpkins one of the biggest alt-rock bands of the ’90s. The Pumpkins show at Brooklyn Bowl on Saturday night may have sometimes been frustrating, but it was mostly satisfying, with a decent balance of familiar classics and appealing new songs.
There was an added Vegas bonus in Killers bassist Mark Stoermer, who’s the latest addition to Corgan’s rotating cast of backing musicians (alongside Rage Against the Machine’s Brad Wilk on drums and Jeff Schroeder on guitar). “You know Mark already; you’ve seen him in the bars,” Corgan said when introducing Stoermer, whose playing was solid and whose presence was unobtrusive (and who helped Corgan specify the correct Zia Records location for a surprise post-show meet-and-greet).
In general, Corgan seemed to be in a good mood, chatting amiably and delivering some blistering guitar solos. Corgan’s love for guitar noodling can sometimes feel self-indulgent, and versions of “Glass and the Ghost Children” and “Silverf*ck” that pushed the 10-minute mark were a bit patience-testing. But the five songs from new album Monuments to an Elegy sounded stronger and more substantial live, with Corgan and Schroeder adding extra guitar textures. They also delivered a heavy and surprisingly fresh version of David Bowie’s oft-covered “Fame,” right after the show’s triple-header of Pumpkins hits (“Disarm,” “Zero,” “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”).
Perhaps afraid of pleasing the crowd too much, Corgan kept the encore to a single song from upcoming album Day for Night, and left the stage with several hits still unplayed. For an artist who often seems to delight in denying audiences what they want, though, he was remarkably accommodating.
“One and All (We Are)”
“Drum + Fife”
“Glass and the Ghost Children”
“Stand Inside Your Love”
“Bullet With Butterfly Wings”