PALO ALTO, Calif. For a night, Billy Corgan brought headbanging back in style. "Yes, we are here to take back the
motherf---in' rock 'n' roll," the Smashing Pumpkins singer yelled on Sunday, midway through the band's set at the Edge.
Culminating in a drum-heavy, sold-out Sunday show that featured three rousing encores one, a free-form jam and new songs such as "Heavy Metal Machine," the band concluded their weekend of in-store appearances, including two that day. About 300 people came to signings at both Tower Records in Mountain View and Sacramento's Dimple Records, some leaving in tears, others in awe. Another few hundred snagged tickets to the show.
Green, red and purple lights glowed over the stage as the black-clad Pumpkins, with new touring bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur, reeled into their new single, "The Everlasting Gaze" (RealAudio excerpt), and thudded through "Heavy Metal Machine," both off MACHINA/the machines of God (Feb. 29).
"Let me die rock 'n' roll/ Let me die to save my soul," Corgan wailed, during "Heavy Metal Machine," thrashing back his bald head and slumping toward the floor in his Nosferatu-like robe. After rising to chant "heavy-metal," the singer moved toward Auf Der Maur and the two rocked in unison, lurching their heads back and forth as if at a Kiss revival.
Throughout the show, Auf Der Maur who joined the group last fall, after leaving Hole held steady the deep bass tones, keeping pace with drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, guitarist James Iha and Corgan through such songs as "Cherub Rock" (RealAudio excerpt), from 1993's Siamese Dream. The red-haired bassist moved comfortably onstage, waving to fans and revealing a darker sound than that of her predecessor, Pumpkins co-founder D'Arcy Wretzky. Wretzky left the band after the completion of the new LP, reportedly to pursue an acting career.
Auf Der Maur Smiles
"She looked more relaxed," concert-goer Angela Ibarra, 23, of Ceres, Calif., said of Auf Der Maur after the show. "She actually got to play without being drowned out by [Hole singer] Courtney [Love]. ... She smiled here. She never smiled [when she was with] Hole."
The Pumpkins seemed to enjoy themselves, and fans took notice. "They're used to big crowds, and being in such an intimate setting, they're getting more feedback, more warmth between the band and the people," Keith Humphreys, 30, of Palo Alto said.
Corgan often clapped his hands along with fans and indulged in guitar solos and screeching vocals. During "Glass + the Ghost Children," off the new album, he and Iha squealed their guitars into high pitches as Auf Der Maur and Chamberlin kept a stalwart, relentless beat. As the song wound down, Corgan's droning vocals ("Love is something in a book? There's not much left to ponder/ Not much left to cook") floated above the bass.
A softer touch was also evident during the first encore, when Chamberlin joined Corgan and Iha on acoustic guitars for an intricate rendition of "1979" (RealAudio excerpt), from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995). A drum track led into the song, and the crowd of mostly teens and twentysomethings bounced to the buoyant beat.
But hard-rocking rhythms were the order of the day, with a long version of "I Am One" (RealAudio excerpt), a sped-up "Zero" and a pounding "Ava Adore" (
HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Smashing_Pumpkins,_The/Ava_Adore.ram">RealAudio excerpt), on which the band shed the techno backing of the 1998 album Adore for Chamberlin's roaring booms. For "I Am One," Auf Der Maur led the quickened momentum, though keeping an eye on her fingers. Corgan slowed the song for a televangelistlike diatribe: "Y2K my f---in' ass. The revolution's not going to be in your computer, it's going to be in your heart." He and Auf Der Maur then drove the song, armed with high kicks, into a rolling finish with feedback.
For "Zero," off Mellon Collie, the crowd matched Corgan's mangled screams of "Intoxicated with the madness/ I'm in love with my sadness," at times drowned out by the heavy guitar.
A Nod To The Past
While the Pumpkins seem braced to rush headlong into the future, they
haven't turned their backs on the past. Corgan encouraged the kids to "rock on," in his cover of the 1973 David Essex hit of the same name, with Iha playing echoing, wavy sounds that evoked the aura of a '50s sci-fi flick.
The singer moved his arms like a marionette, striking poses as he asked, "Where do we go from here?" He also exhorted the fans to "Join Together" as the band later played an upbeat rendition of the Who classic.
Encouraged by the chant "Pumpkins," the group ended the show by shaking hands with fans and invoking the spirit of late Doors frontman Jim Morrison. Corgan taunted Iha to prove he could still play loud and strong, saying, "You're not 25 anymore. Give it up, buddy." Iha responded with a sliding and vibrating riff. Then the singer, shooting peace signs to the audience, stood with a rock-star swagger, saying, "We're gonna reach to the sky ... because I'm the vampire thing, and I can do anything."