Smashing Pumpkins: RDS Simmonscourt Arena, Dublin. 9th February 2008

Posted: February 12, 2008 in Music
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This is a show I thought I’d never get to see. Back in 2000, when the Smashing Pumpkins originally broke up, I was a poor student and couldn’t afford a ticket for their concert in the Olympia. And even if I could have, the concert sold out so quickly that I probably wouldn’t have bagged a ticket anyway. So when I heard they had re-formed and were headed for Dublin I made sure I was going to be there. This may or may not have involved blackmail, sexual favours, and the issuing of death threats.

Procrastination and the need to order beer means I’m too late to catch support act Concerto For Constantine. But, seeing as they’re a local band, I’m sure I’ll cross paths with them again. I do, however, manage to get a pit pass at the last minute so I get myself into a good position in front of the stage and wait anxiously for the main event.

The lights go out and Messrs Corgan and Chamberlain stroll out, with Jeff Schroeder, Ginger Reyes, and Lisa Harriton in tow. Without saying a word they launch into ‘Porcelina’. An odd choice for an opening song, I think to myself, but pleasant nonetheless. At the same time, though, I have my suspicions and it soon becomes clear that they are warranted.

Perhaps it’s the venue’s infamously dire acoustics – or perhaps it’s Billy Corgan’s desire to perform re-hashed versions of certain songs – but whatever is going on is making many tunes almost impossible to interpret. ‘Try, Try, Try’ is the only track I can positively identify, although I think ‘Behold! The Nightmare’ may have followed the opener. Thankfully, they’ve decided not to tamper with ‘Tonight, Tonight’ or ‘Mayonaise’ and the audience finally gets a taste of what the Smashing Pumpkins should sound like.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t last and the fans are soon subjected to an undecipherable mix of riffs, solos, and Corgan’s combination of crooning and screaming. It’s almost the halfway point in the gig before the familiar opening notes of ‘Today’ send the crowd into raptures. Acoustic versions of ‘Perfect’ and ‘1979’ provide a welcome break from the constant drone, whilst ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’, ‘Lily’, ‘The Everlasting Gaze’, and recent single ‘Tarantula’ are wedged into gaps in what can only be described as a horrible wall of sound. Even ‘Ava Adore’ – one of the band’s finer works – is butchered mercilessly as part of the Pumpkins’ gratuitous reinvention of their back catalogue.

The whole affair is getting tiresome and more than a few people are sneaking a peek at their watches when the band finally leave the stage. Some glance ernestly at the exits and wonder how long the encore will last. Mercifully, it’s short. The finale is actually a superb rendition of ‘Cherub Rock’, which, for a split second, could almost make you forgive them for the mediocrity that preceeded it. Alas, the reality is too bitterly disappointing to ignore.

The performance clocks in at just under two and a half hours in length, leaving some to argue that at least the audience got value for money. I, on the other hand, feel robbed. This could have been – and should have been – so much more. Most fans at tonight’s concert had never seen the Smashing Pumpkins before and this was their chance to hear live versions of songs they hold dear to their hearts. Instead, all they got was a deluge of mostly obscure, reworked compositions with a few token crowd-pleasers thrown in. The worst part is that Billy Corgan & Co still show flickers of true genius on stage… if only they’d lose that middle-age spread!

  1. This is painfully the gig down to a tee. A childhood dream that we both wanted was to see the Pumpkins. Now it was destroyed. I think Corgan should go back to trying other projects to atleast save our memories of listening to the Pumpkins

  2. Stass says:

    In fairness, they do have a reputation for messing around with their own songs during live gigs. I’ve always wanted to see the Smashing Pumpkins (or Billy Corgan & co.) for years, but I remember watching live footage or hearing their gigs on 2FM, and thinking why did they bother butchering songs such as “Bullet…” and “1979” (which they didn’t do in the RDS funnily enough).

    I managed to miss the first part of the gig, only getting in before they started “Try Try Try”. So now I’m a bit peeved that I managed to miss “Porcelina” and “Tonight Tonight”. I did find it funny/weird that they played a medley of “Cash Car Star”, mixed with a cover of “For What It’s Worth” and what sounds like the intro to Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years”. But at the same time, it just felt like they were dicking around.

    Overall it was an average gig. Good to hear some Pumpkins classics, but the performance was not fitting to their legendary status. Infact, I almost forgot who I just went to see while I was waiting for the train back to town!

  3. Perhaps I was expecting too much after listening to Earphoria incessantly for a few days before the gig… oh well!

    I’m surprised we didn’t bump into each other like we usually do at concerts!

  4. tenacioustimothy says:

    Great review! Was never a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan so wasn’t going to go but the review itself is great! Wish I could remember the order of most of the songs played at gigs…usually too busy bopping!

  5. Hobo Springs says:

    […] Garfields Ghost […]

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