Live Review: The Smashing Pumpkins — The Viper Room, West Hollywood
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 08:35:32
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How many rock 'n' roll legends are left?
Think about it for a moment.
How many bands out there can still make a difference with distortion? Or change the world with words? Or bring a smile with a solo? There are very few, and you can probably count them on two hands—if that. While you're counting add The Smashing Pumpkins, perhaps add them twice because they're so damn powerful on stage.
The Smashing Pumpkins ignited The Viper Room last night with one of the best shows that the Sunset Strip has seen in recent memory. Legendary Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan along with drummer Mike Byrne, guitarist Jeff Schroeder and bassist Nicole Fiorentino enchanted and entranced the crowd with a cavalcade of classics and new material from the Pumpkins' storied career. Each and every song could've been a movie of its own, directed by Corgan's impenetrable riffing and vivid lyrics. Then there's that trademark delivery of his that runs the gamut from sensitive musing to unbridled emotional exorcism.
Their live show is one of the reasons The Pumpkins remain one of the greatest bands of all time proudly brandishing a sound and catalog that's etched their place alongside Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd in the pantheon. The Viper Room show solidified their legacy even further.
After the curtain opened, Corgan and Co. Led the 90-minute charge with "Astral Planes" from Teagarden By Kaleidyscope. Corgan's bright melody morphed into pure rock 'n' roll ecstasy as his pristine vocals filled the Viper Room. The haze of riffs and melodies felt rapturous, pulling the audience into the Pumpkins' tight embrace and never letting go. "Astral Planes" hearkens back to Gish, but there's a modern refinement to it that gives the song another dimension and begs repeat listens. Most importantly, it simply slayed live. As Corgan ripped a flawless solo under the strobe light, it was clear that the Pumpkins are burning brighter than ever.
Fiorentino's calculated bass rumble slowly kicked off "Ava Adore." The bass took the place of the track's trademark electronics, adding a new robust sense of soul. Fiorentino's tone was so overpowering that it conjured "Nativity In Black" in all the right ways. Cor gan's poignant lyrics took center stage and the psychedelic propulsion showed a band that's raw, real and ready to take the world over—again. They started that road to domination here in The Viper Room, and those lucky enough to see it won't ever forget it.
The harmonies in Siamese Dream classic "Hummer" transported the crowd into Corgan's dreamscape seamlessly. He crooned out the melody while leaning into over the side of the stage Fender in hand. He smiled as the hook took over.
On the other end of the spectrum, Byrne's blinding beat propelled "As Rome Burns" as Corgan summoned his inner metal head for some thrashing so elegant it could scare Slayer. The song sped up the set and Corgan felt at home tearing up the fretboard. Another Teagarden cut "song for a son" is the Pumpkins' "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You". An ethereal intro from Schroeder and Corgan blasted into a metallic combustion of notes and a vocal howl that could renew faith modern music. Zeppelin never got as spacey as The Pumpkins did on "Bleeding the Orchid" and then an unforgettable "Stand Inside Your Love" last night though.
The show could be at times nearly tearjerking—"Stand Inside Your Love"—then brutally bloodletting—"As Rome Burns" with Corgan as the one guiding light.
"Bullet with Butterfly Wings" sounded more viciously vibrant than ever. Corgan and his cohorts ran through a supercharged version of the track that proved invigorating, incisive and inspiring.
It's that harnessed chaotic energy that's always made the Pumpkins so palpable and simultaneously palatable. However, it's most evident on new cuts like "Widow Wake My Mind." The saccharine snap of riffs at the song's beginning skyrockets the band into the same realm occupied by all their heroes who reached outer space on a ladder of guitar chords.
Corgan's got a sense of humor as sharp as his chops still. Before "Perfect," he smiled, "Actually, the first time I ever played this song live. If you hear the bootleg, it's all L.A. people talking."
There was no one talking this time as the song reached melodic heights of Beatles brilliance. It was so good it could keep even the chattiest industry pundits quiet and under the Pumpkins' spell.
Then again, Corgan has it right when it comes to rock.
"It's all about the music, man" he laughed.
"Cherub Rock" and "That's the Way" showed both sides of the band's superpowers while an epic "United States" soared to heights beyond heaven with its pure guitar explosion.
Corgan screamed, "Revolution" as the feedback swells ruptured the room, and the word couldn't have been more fitting.
From the unique song-at-a-time digital release of Teagarden to the Pumpkins' infinitely incendiary live show, Corgan's about to start another revolution.
Isn't that what all legends do? Isn't that what the world really needs now?
Were you there?