Words by: Andrew Bruss | Images by: Scott Fleishman
Smashing Pumpkins & Explosions In The Sky :: 10.16.07 :: Orpheum Theatre :: Boston, MA
Smashing Pumpkins, accompanied by Explosions In The Sky, dished out a clusterfuck of alt-rock classics for their third and final performance together at Boston's Orpheum Theatre. There's been a ton of hype regarding the Smashing Pumpkins reunion tour. A significant component of this hype has revolved around the fact that without original Pumpkins James Iha (guitar) and D'arcy Wretzky (bass) many critics have suggested that it is nothing more than an over-the-hill pseudo-reunion. Not only did Billy Corgan (guitar, vocals) demonstrate to his fans and critics that the Pumpkins are as rocking as ever, but when they came through Boston they'd booked an opening act that utilized the same otherworldly musical progression that put them on the map back in the '90s.
| Billy Corgan - Smashing Pumpkins :: 10.16|
Explosions in the Sky's set kicked off just past 7:30 p.m., well before the majority of the venue had filled in. The band added to the night's extravagance with a set of ambient instrumentals that masterfully utilized loud-soft dynamics for theatrical effect. They were faced with a lot of the hardships affiliated with opening for a major act like the Pumpkins, but given the circumstances, they held their own and then some.
They opened with "First Breath After Coma," the opening track from 2001's The Earth is Not A Cold Dead Place. The all-instrumental outfit started with gentle strokes of their strings while Chris Hrasky (drummer) caressed his cymbals with brushes and mallets. Coated in blue raindrops of light, Explosions in the Sky gradually built up the intensity of the tune until it reached an explosive crescendo that demonstrated the power in their formula. What draws people into this group's music is the duality in their sound. EITS has a preternatural ability to express polarized emotions in a way that leaves the listener feeling like they've just heard the soundtrack of a life in limbo, stirring feelings of emotional intimacy one moment and utter heartbreak the next.
Bassist and unofficial frontman Michael James expressed this emotional duality as he strummed the living hell out of his bass, leaving a look of permanent pleasure on his face despite being engaged in a controlled emotional breakdown.
| Explosions in the Sky:: 10.16 :: Boston|
The Texas natives closed their set with "The Moon Is Down." It was a quality ending, but the lack of new material left many questions unanswered. Explosions in the Sky recently released the critically acclaimed All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, and the material from that album felt deliberately neglected. Even so, Explosions in the Sky warmed up the crowd in a significant way, and more than that, left many talking about more than just Smashing Pumpkins.
Corgan and company took the stage to a roaring mob who'd been waiting to see the icon for the better part of a decade. They opened with "United States" off this summer's Zeitgeist, which contained some heavy instrumental segments and the signature tom-tom work of Jimmy Chamberlin. After about ten minutes, Corgan ripped into a frightening rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" that provided a vehicle for wowing the crowd and introducing folks to the group's new lineup. However, it wasn't until "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" that people really lost it. What ensued was an aggressive, participatory sing-a-long that brought everyone back to the days when Billy Corgan had a full head of hair.
As the set progressed through more obscure tunes like "Home" and "Set The Ray To Jerry," the inner workings of the Smashing Pumpkins gradually became clear. Even with Jeff Schroeder taking over Iha's guitar duties, Corgan was still handling most of the lead riffs in a way that practically negated any second guitarist. Ginger Reyes, Wretzky's replacement, did just fine, and Lisa Harriton chipped in on keyboards throughout the evening. Seeing Corgan master the group's older material without half his former band testified to the fact that he's always been the heart and soul of the group. His legal ownership of the group's name played a significant part in his control, but he has always been at the helm of the band's creative and technical aspects. True, Corgan ditched his old band, save for Chamberlin, to hit the road with hired guns, but judging by his head-first dive into the material, he proved that perhaps Iha and Wretzky were never more than hired guns to begin with.
One of the most memorable moments was a solo acoustic rendition of "1979," off 1995's Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, that tapped into our hearts. Everyone seemed to be "singing along" even though very few seemed to actually know the words. Moving forward, Corgan fed his fans a handful of favorites - "Today," "Tonight Tonight," "Ava Adore" and "Disarm" - before closing with "Heavy Metal Machine."
| Smashing Pumpkins :: 10.16 :: Boston|
The whole set showed Corgan's masterful ability to blend industrial music with catchy pop hooks. In fact, people's willingness to tolerate his trademark nasal voice has long stood as a testament to his brilliance as a songwriter. What caught many off guard was his guitar playing. All night, Corgan shredded and tapped, playing riffs that would make Eddie Van Halen proud. As incongruous as this may sound coming from the guy who wrote three-chord wonders like "Disarm," once you've seen it you will truly believe it.
The first encore included "Gossamer" and a raging "Muzzle." The group returned for a blistering rendition of "Cherub Rock" that brought fans into the aisles to rock out as hard as they possibly could. Following the night's second encore, Corgan returned to thank everyone, saying Boston had always been good to them and that played a big part in his decision to come through Beantown for a three night run. By the time the house lights brought fans back to earth it seemed as though many were still trying to grasp the significance of the musical journey they'd just taken.
JamBase | Massachusetts
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