This past Thursday I had the privilege of seeing my 2nd all-time favorite band in concert (we all know who numero uno is). This was such a cool experience and please pardon me for bragging a bit as to the extreme level of coolness this show achieved. First off, let me compare how drastically different the 2 times were that I have seen the Pumpkins live.
1st time. 1996 at Rosemont Horizon (there's a flashback for ya). I had about 20th row center in the midst of about 8 billion rowdy teens (like myself) and it was about 200 degrees in the arena. Without getting into too much detail-on the off chance I might have a younger reader- let's just say there was an incident with a type of mushroom then an ambulance ride followed by an awesome hospital visit for me. I saw a total of ONE song. Definitely a night to remember....for the wrong reasons.
2nd time- June 14th, 2012- The Metro. Our friend, Theo Epstein (President of the Chicago Cubs) invited several of us to his charity event he was hosting at The Metro. Billy Corgan and the Pumpkins agreed to play his show pro-bono (definitely not the norm for many artists). The place was packed and we had front row seats in Theo's balcony. Great view, great crowd, and plenty of drinks. This was gonna be a good night. So we're all a few drinks deep and the lights went down and it hit me that I was going to get to see another idol of mine/epic band just a few yards away from me any second. I started to freak out (in a non-mushroom way) and jump up and down like a little school girl with the biggest smile ever plastered across my face. They take the stage and Billy, as usual, looks quite intimidating because of his imposing height and scowl... I actually had the opportunity to chat with Billy the week before at the Roger Waters show, and I told him how pumped I was to see him at the Metro. I mentioned that our close mutual friend was bringing me, and he said he was really looking forward to this show as they were debuting a few of their new tunes. It was pretty sweet to get the inside scoop...
They opened with Zero. Bottom line...it f-ing rocked. Billy still sounds the same and his signature anguished vocals and heart piercing and transcendental lead guitar brought me right back to why I fell so hard for them in 1993 when they released their sophomore album, Siamese Dream. The nice thing about this being a charity show, was Billy played mainly hits, with a couple new tunes. Zero was followed by "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" and the crowd pleasing "Today". I pretty much lost it when they played "Cherub Rock" -definitely my favorite track from Siamese Dream. They also played "1979" and "Tonight Tonight" from 1995's critically acclaimed, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. "Ava Adore" almost brought me to tears as it is such an angry yet hopeful song with a massively heavy guitar riff and a hardcore beat that can put you in a trance. The 2 new songs were great as well and were fortunately very "Pumpkin" like. We all know I hate when bands change their intrinsic sound after they garner a billion fans... (sorry Eddie, you know I love ya...literally). I really wish that they would've played "Here is No Why" and "Mayonnaise" but I guess they didn't have time to please us all. My favorite of theirs is a tune called "Ugly" it was released in 1995 and was a B-side to the "1979" single. It's haunting and very punctuated. Unlike many of their lyrics- this one is clear and straight to the point. "I Don't look in the mirror, I don't like what I see staring back at me. Everything is clearer...I'll never see what you see. It's not me...so beautiful and free." If you have not heard this song... PLEASE download it. You will not regret it.
I've heard this lame-ass comment more than a few times..."But it's not even the Pumpkins! It's just Billy, it's none of the original members!". If you know the band you know that Billy IS the Pumpkins. He wrote over 90% of every note and lyric and was the sole instrumentalist on all the studio recordings as he only trusted himself to get it perfect. And perfect it was... and still is. Even though James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlain, and D'Arcy are gone... the heart and soul of the Pumpkins is still thriving.
TODAY, June 19th, is actually the release date of their 9th studio album, Oceania (how 'bout my impeccable blog timing?). Billy calls it an "album within an album" as it's part of a 44 song compilation that began being released in 2009. The bassist, Nicole Fiorentino (yup, another girl), says "it has that familiar old-school Pumpkins feel to it, with a modern twist". I did just listen to the album and it is a bit reminiscent of their older material... not as up-tempo, however. It's unmistakably Pumpkins. I'm glad they're back and in full effect. It surely looks like Billy has his feet dug in the ground and ain't goin' anywhere anytime soon. Viva 90's alternative rock!!!