This past Saturday, we went with a few friends to go see The Smashing Pumpkins perform at the Charlottesville Pavilion. I’ve been a Pumpkins fan for ever, and very excited that they were going back on tour and coming pretty close to Richmond. Leading up to the concert, I made a mix CD of the songs from set lists I found online. Looking at the set list, they were going to be playing some of their darker songs, and some rather rare stuff that many fans may have never heard before.
We arrived shortly before the gates opened, and only had to wait outside for a short time before we were let in to find seats. We ended up sitting right on the edge of the lawn, with a great view and didn’t have to feel all cramped up in the GA seating. Since there was no opening band, the house music was a bunch of oldies progressively getting louder. The show was scheduled to start at 7, but the pumpkins took the stage closer to 8:30. While it sucked waiting so long, we knew the show wasnt going to be worth it! After the show, we figured that the delay was due to the lighting. The stage was well lit, and if the sun had been up, you would have not been able to see a lot of what was going on. Right before the band took the stage, we saw them coming down the steps, the entire stage get dark, some pre-recorded beat turned up much louder, and a few guitars getting set up and ready to go.
While personally I felt the concert started off slow, the music really picked up a few songs in, and really got everyone into the mood. Ive listed the set list below, with my ‘mini-review’ of each song:
- Tarantula – biggest hit yet from Zeitgeist. There were a few audio misshaps durring this song (mixs going in and out, guitar levels being changed, etc) as the band got settled into everything. It was a GREAT start to the show, and really got everyones attention
- G.L.O.W. – New song that may be on the upcoming album. One of the coolest bass grooves I have heard from them. A video from another show is on youtube.
- Siva – If anyone was upset from them taking so long to get on stage, this changed their minds quick. To me, this is when I started getting into the show. The song is already pretty long on the album, and Billy made sure to add a few solo’s live. This was also the first chance where Billy and the band started playing a few tricks, looking relaxed, and having a good time. Its great that this song is practically 20 years old now, and still amazing.
- Eye – This was on the ‘Lost Highway’ soundtrack, and one of the darker SP songs. I was honestly amazed to see this on the list – it was very electronic on the album. Ginger did an amazing job on the bass, making this awesome to hear live.
- Mayonnaise – Big song from Siamese Dream, and pretty standard.
- Tonight, Tonight – Amazing live, and really captured the rest of the audience for what was next. Basically, they played a song so far from each ‘era’, to get everyones attention before they switched gears. Being a pretty major Pumpkins fan, this was great. Also, this as well as the other older songs were played pretty normally, and the band looked excited to play. This changed later in the concert…
- Speed Kills – another somewhat dark song from the Machina era. I love this song, and glad to hear it live. The extra energy and long strokes on this song really made it sound amazing, as well as the bass groove behind it.
- Transformer – This was a rare song on the ’33’ single. Its alright, but again pretty poppy for the pumpkins, and not one of my favorite songs. Billy was really dancing to this, and looked to be happy playing it. I dont think the audience got it much though.
- Superchrist – WOW. This was released on MySpace and Billy’s blog earlier this year. I had never heard it yet, and was blown away. THIS is the pumpkins I love. Blaring guitars, rocking drums, and just a great classic feel. Hearing this live (and as an intro into United States) was unbelievable. Luckily, it sounds that the Pumpkins are going more towards this ‘in your face’ feel, which I’m very happy about. You HAVE to check out this song, and I have an MP3 of it if anyone wants a copy.
- United States – The pumpkins never really involved themselves with politics before, but that changed with Zeitgeist. This is a rather long song, and I was honestly ready for them to rock out for 30 minutes to this, and while I dont think it lasted that long, I know it was at least 15 or more. Words can’t really describe how amazing this was, you would have had to be there. After the song somewhat ‘falls apart’, billy went into some solo time – which included what appeared to be playing the guitar with his TEETH. And what did he play – the NATIONAL ANTHEM. It fit in perfectly. The entire venue was going crazy during this, and everyone was just in awe. After they were done, Billy FINALLY talked mentioning that ‘they had to pull more of their crap on stage’ and that ‘he was so happy to be here, hoping everyone was having a good time’, etc.
- Once Upon a Time – to calm things down a bit, the stage lights all came on, and the band was all huddled together, Billy switched to acoustic, and Jimmy was on a VERY small drum set. This was a song from Adore, and beautifully redone live.
- The Crux and Rose March – these are two songs from the acoustic EP ‘American Gothic’ that came out after Zeitgeist. Again, the way the band performed these was out of this world. While everyone has a different version of the Pumpkins they love – it was great for the band to hit on all these groups…even if they didnt want to. I know Debs really enjoyed these two songs, and i’m not sure if she had heard them before!
- Billy’s little side rant/Today/Bullet With Butterfly Wings – After the acoustic set was done, Billy ‘welcomed’ everyone to the second half of the show, one that would rock out. He mentioned that usually they seem to be playing in front of older audiences (30’s) and these people were stuck in the 90’s. He was glad that he was playing in front of a younger group tonight, and that they would be more accepting of the newer/different stuff. He asked if everyone wanted ‘the old stuff’, and when the crowd went wild, he mentioned that he was ‘giving us these songs as a gift’, but that he really wants people to move on, and that the Pumpkins are back and going to be crazy. I feel a bit biased on this – im glad the pumpkins are back, and that they are not just a random band ONLY playing their old stuff. But on the flip side, just because they dont like music they put out (Billy has come out saying that he can’t even listen to Adore), they have fans that do like all of their stuff, and the band should be supportive of this. They then preceded to play both HUGE hits back to back, twice as fast as the recording. Im glad they played both, but really wish they just passed over all this and played what they want.
- ‘Batman’ – This is actually called The Beginning is the End is the Beginning, and appeared on the Batman and Robin soundtrack (and is actually in the trailer for ‘Watchmen‘). I’m so glad they changed the feel of the show with this one, before they rocked OUT afterwards. I was pretty thrown back by Billy’s comments, and so while I was trying to let those sync in, I was able to really enjoy this song.
- Heavy Metal Machine – Another blown away song. I expected this to be a straight copy of the recording, but I couldn’t even make out most of the song with how they played it. The also covered at least 3 classic rock songs, but I can’t remember what towards the end of this.
- Glass Theme – another great song, and actually merged together with Heavy Metal Machine. I loved the lighting on this as well – strobes everywhere. This and HMM had to be the ‘loudest’ parts of the show, and a GREAT way to get ready to end.
- Set the Controls – this was actually a Pink Floyd cover! It lasted nearly 20 minutes, and they didn’t sing much at all. Billy even played some large drums, did some more amazing tricks with the guitar, and seemed to be having a great time. This song is actually not that ‘heavy’, so I was pretty decided they ended on such a ‘spacey’ tune. It was a great ending though, and made the show well rounded and one great experience
- We Only Come Out at Night – This is from Mellon Collie, and was surprised they again had such a ‘relaxed’ encore. It was all vocal, even Jimmy was standing up singing with everyone. Then, they pulled out KAZOOS! This put quite a fun twist on everything!
- In The Summertime – I thought this was a pumpkins song, but it actually was a 70’s song by Mungo Jerry. Everyone even had little solo’s on their kazoos, and were just having a blast on stage. I wish i could say some of the things that were said on stage about ‘what you can do in the summer time’, but I can’t 🙂 . Billy was one of the last to leave, and then their keyboardist. We were almost going to leave before the encore, but VERY glad we got to stay to see this. If you click the song title above, you can see a video from one of the other shows, and see what I mean.
Overall, this was the show I waited nearly 10 years to see, and so glad that I did. I like all the stuff the Pumpkins have put out, and glad to see them back (and yes, I do wish James was back, but oh well). A lot of bands that have been around for a while really die off, or come back and just play all their old stuff. Its amazing to see a band like the pumpkins come back, and continue to be crazy, and continue to be progressive. I did a little bit of reading yesterday about the band and how they operate now, and found it pretty amazing that Zeitgeist was recorded almost fully ANALOG, rather than being processed or batching together multiple takes. It shows a very unique dedication to their art, and one that I hope they continue practicing for many years to come…