Shepherds Bush Empire
19th June 2007
Reviewed by TheCloneRanger
7 years disbanded, a new line up and 2000 devotees to what once was, now make for an unnerving air of apprehension, and the band feel it too. This is zero hour for the Smashing Pumpkins and it's make or break.
To thunderous applause the band take to the stage. Billy extends a reserved greeting not unlike a shy child facing a crowd for the very first time, this awkward behemoth of a man breaks a crooked smile and it's
in this instance it all becomes clear how much this means to him, and quite clearly to all of us here tonight.
Set opener United States puts the listener square into the band's current headspace, from the get go they make it clear they've ostracised themselves from their homeland's present political state and want no part. Such is the album's theme, the image of lady liberty knee high in floodwater. The song paints this picture beautifully, making the audience feel literally drowned in sound, drawing on typical pumpkins guitar noisemakery to simulate the sound of bending metal mid song. The chorus rings out for "Revolution!... Revolution!, what will the do to me?". Then with anthemic quality, they send the song home singing, "Fight, I wanna Fight, I wanna Fight, Revolution Tonight"...and after a performance like that, so do we all.
The Smashing Pumpkins are not so much back but rather here for the first time again. New bassist Ginger Reyes grinds her guitar with such sex appeal you could almost forgive D' Arcy and James Iha for refusing to regroup. The band touch base early in the set with fan favourites "Today" and "Hummer" amongst countless others. "Tonight Tonight" catapults us through the stratosphere and into the stars riding high on marching drum rolls like none other than the immortal Jimmy Chamberlain can. Heavier set now he visually fills the role he plays audibly.
Billy Corgan, with a recently renewed life optimism, uncharacteristically finds the time to make a gag about football. This adds a certain charm and variation to proceedings. As does a mini solo acoustic set before
returning with an earth shattering performance of "Zero". Certainly a highlight of the evening for most.
Just about 3 hours into this sensory assault and the encore culminates in arguably 2 of the biggest sing-a-longs in the Pumpkins catalogue. "Cherub Rock", where it all began for the majority of the fans, and closing off with a personal favourite "Muzzle". Shepherds Bush Empire singing in unison, "I fear that I am ordinary just like everyone" with the likes of The Killers (with whom I shared an immediate audience) air drumming with each other as I've always done through adolescence with my friends, leaves me feeling like a kid again.
Always under your SPell indeed!