ATN Toronto correspondent (and Toronto Star staff
writer Peter Howell attended the Smashing Pumpkins Jan. 3 performance. Here is
his report: Leave it to the Smashing Pumpkins to play against hype. Here they
are in town for two club shows at the Phoenix Concert Theatre, the first dates
of a projected two-year world tour. They're the hottest band in '90s rock,
having finally stepped out of the shadows of Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and tickets
for last night's concert and the repeat performance tonight went faster than
doughnuts at a police picnic. Despite attempts to stop the scalpers using a
time-consuming ticket voucher exchange system -- which delayed the start of the
show by at least an hour -- word had it the $30 Pumpkins' ducats were trading
outside for upwards of $250 apiece. (One guy reportedly got taken for
With that kind of hype -- not to mention constant radio play by
show co-promoter CFNY-FM -- one might have reasonably expected the great
Pumpkins to just kick out the jams and proclaim their alt-rock superiority. No
way. These four Chicagoans take their dynamics seriously. They opted to act as
their own opening act, and a quiet one at that. They arrived on stage about 10
p.m. with acoustic equipment and chairs.
They were a study in
non-conformity. Bassist D'Arcy was dressed in an elegant evening gown.
Singer/guitarist Billy Corgan, with his new cueball hairstyle and prison
tailoring, looked like a Blade Runner android who had just busted out of an
off-world colony. Guitarist James Iha had his best Chicago mobster pinstripes
and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain wore regular plaid.
But they had a single
agenda, which was to play most of the songs off their great new double album,
Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, beginning with the more
ballad-oriented and acoustic material, continuing after a short break with the
big rock numbers.
The acoustic gambit was a stripped-down one, with little
of the orchestral flourishes heard on Mellon Collie. There was no
orchestral intro to "Tonight, Tonight" (although the intro was heard on tape at
the start of the second set) and "Cupid De Locke" seemed to be missing a string
section or three. The sound mix also seemed to have too much of D'Arcy's bass.
The Pumpkins proceeded at a stately pace, baffling punters who were looking for
a chance to mosh. Despite the fact Mellon Collie has sold 300,000 units
in Canada alone -- the first country in the world where it went triple platinum
-- there seemed to be greater appreciation of the two songs in the 10-song
opening set taken from the band's breakthrough album, 1993's Siamese
There were cheers of recognition for "Today" and the first sign
of body-surfing for "Rocket," the first song of the night which Corgan played
using an electric guitar.
But if you like the Pumpkins, you've learned to
admire their chutzpah. Few bands these days would have the nerve to put out a
double album, a major investment of cash and time for today's mod rocker.
Corgan and company simply do it their way, and after a short intermission, they
came back to live better electrically, even switching to more conventional rock
After opening with new song "The Bomb," the band continued its way
through Mellon Collie, getting the rafters shaking with the monster riff
of "Bullet With Butterfly Wings," and current single "1979," plus more Siamese
Dream faves in "Disarm," "Geek U.S.A." and "Cherub Rock." Nothing from first
album Gish, nothing from B-side collection Pisces Iscariot. But
if the Pumpkins proved anything last night, it's that no one should try and
anticipate their moves.