My brothers and I would make a good case for obsessive tendencies as a hereditary trait. Our dad was a man of several hobbies, music chief among them, and I'm sure we inherited our predilection for preoccupation from him. Though my music fixation far outpaces my siblings', my youngest brother has indulged in his own adventures in rock tourism. It was my duty and pleasure, then, to join him for his fantasy shows: the Smashing Pumpkins' (his favorite band) residency at the Fillmore.
Smashing Pumpkins, the Fillmore, July 24, 2007: My brother has some really funny Smashing Pumpkins-related stories from the '90s, but my favorite anecdote involves Courtney Love grabbing him off the sidewalk by his shirt to come backstage. I'm not even kidding. There are more, but I'd do everyone a disservice to try to piece them together now.
For most of the '90s, I was consumed by British music and, in fact, spent the grunge years listening mainly to shoegazers. Regardless, I still tuned in to commercial radio and watched 120 Minutes, so I couldn't help hearing certain groups, the Smashing Pumpkins among them. Though their nods to hard rock and forays into guitar wankery didn't appeal to me, they also revealed dreamy, psychedelic touches that kept me interested. Of course, with my brother's endless repetition of all their CDs, my brain was bound to take to a few tunes, some of which I really liked. I even brought a couple of my younger cousins to a Pumpkins show at the abhorrent Cow Palace back in 1996, with Garbage opening.
Those hits, however, were in short supply tonight, though we got the sublime and atypically understated "Drown," as well as the smash "Tonight, Tonight." Annie had warned me about the extended instrumental jam, and I wondered at several points throughout the night if I was listening to that specific track. Toward the end of the evening, Billy himself asked if the show had been too weird for the audience, and a handful of people were willing to admit as much. After the show, the fraternal unit confirmed that the show was heavy on b-sides, a dream for him but a lot harder for the casual fan to abide.
Billy Corgan has been a favorite target for indie bands, but his notorious ego wasn't on ostentatious display tonight. Early in the gig, he laid down the "rules," including "no requests because we're not a bar band." Otherwise, he didn't engage in much chit-chat, though he seemed a lot more laidback than I recall. I think my favorite part of the show might've been the first song of the encore, where Billy went solo acoustic. He unfurled a long intro about the anger he perceived in San Francisco, then unveiled a brand-new song inspired by the city. His explanation could've been a lot more antagonistic, but he actually admitted it could've been a mental block on his part and not the locale itself.
As for the new band members--you can lament James Iha and D'arcy Wretzky's absence all you want, but I didn't think their presence was particularly indelible, and accordingly, their replacements are not Billy's equals. Jimmy Chamberlain, however, definitely enjoys a bond with Billy that wasn't evident elsewhere on stage.
The real treat of the show for me was supporting my brother and knowing that he was having a great time. We've gone to a few shows together over the years, but overall, we don't have the same tastes or concert temperaments. I'd love to do it again, though I have no idea when or if it'll happen next. Besides, the more obsessed he gets, the less crazy I look.