CHICAGO The Smashing Pumpkins debuted their newest member
ex-Hole bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur Monday at a club show
that also found them reacquainting themselves with a massive, aggressive
"We enjoy rocking for you," guitarist James Iha deadpanned early in the
gig, the first of a two-night stand at the Metro club. Though his mannered
enunciation was joking, the band made good on the sentiment throughout
the 20-song, hour-and-50-minute show.
The show was all about the capital-R Rock and building early support
for the Pumpkins' upcoming return to that sound, MACHINA/the machines
of God (Feb. 29).
"I just got so filled with energy," said Monica Neuert, 22, of Chicago,
who braved sub-zero wind chill to see the show with her brother Sean. "I
haven't seen them since '97, and they're even better."
From their own pounding songs, including "Cherub Rock," to a cover of
David Essex's 1973 hit "Rock On," which exploded in a sonic star-shower,
the Pumpkins sounded hell-bent on renouncing the quieter atmospherics of
their most recent album, Adore (1997).
As the new song "Heavy Metal Machine" rampaged to a close, the Pumpkins
sank into a valley of deep riffs, and the crowd followed each step of the
way. On the new single "The Everlasting Gaze," drummer Jimmy Chamberlin
filled each and every aural crack with a crash, ride or tap on one of his
And with "I of the Mourning," a paean to rock radio, singer Billy Corgan
offered a blazing stab at FM anthems. The song started out sounding like
a slice of indie rock but gradually gained muscle with Corgan's sour
vocals and Iha's extended but simple soloing.
By the end, Corgan had enveloped himself in the noise like a kid with his
head glued to a stereo speaker, shouting, "What is it you want to say?"
Lying low throughout it all was Auf Der Maur, who just three weeks ago
was named the band's touring bassist. Original bassist D'Arcy Wretzky
left the group in September.
Auf Der Maur wasn't introduced until the second set of encores, when Iha
identified her as the only "Canadian socialist" member of the band.
She's apparently still climbing on the Pumpkins learning curve, as evidenced
by the music stand she kept in front of her. During the hit "Bullet With
Butterfly Wings," she seemed to glance at the stand frequently, though
she also rocked intuitively, throwing her head and shoulders into the
song's beats and changes.
Auf Der Maur's newcomer status was made most plain during "1979"
excerpt). While Chamberlin left his kit to play acoustic guitar
with Corgan and Iha, the bassist remained on the far side of the stage,
away from the other three.
"It was pretty weird," Sean Neuert, 24, said of Auf Der Maur's presence.
"But D'arcy was never very talkative either."
Though the heart of the show lay clearly in the new songs from MACHINA/the
machines of God, the Pumpkins did reach back in their catalog. Corgan
took pains to distinguish reaching back from retreating.
"Sometimes you gotta go backwards to go forward," he said in a monologue
in the middle of the band's first single, "I Am One." "Sometimes you gotta
dig up the bones to look at them and say they don't mean sh--."
The Pumpkins played many of their older songs in altered arrangements.
"Disarm," from Siamese Dream (1993), was less lush and more folky
in its acoustic setting.
Chamberlin's live drums significantly beefed up the electronic sound of
"Ava Adore" (RealAudio
excerpt). Chamberlin, who was ousted from the band in 1996 after
the heroin-related death of touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin, rejoined
the Pumpkins this year.