Pumpkins Return To Stage With New Bassist

Showcase new rock songs from MACHINA/the machines of God in Melissa Auf Der Maur's debut.

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

rock sound.

"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

dozen cymbals.

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.