Last Night: Smashing Pumpkins At Warehouse Live

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Photos by Marc Brubaker
Smashing Pumpkins
Warehouse Live
September 21, 2010

See photos from last night's jam-packed show.

Tuesday night's nearly sold-out Smashing Pumpkins set at Warehouse Live should have been a greatest-hits affair, at least in the eyes of most people who haven't been keeping up with the band these past three years since Billy Corgan resurrected the moniker. But for the crazy brave who have stuck around in the interim, it was a godsend, an exercise in how an artist can keep making challenging music even when the social-media peanut gallery says his time is up.

At 43, Corgan has not settled into anything. He hasn't eased back into a cozy modern-rock couch of his past hits, reveling in what he did. He's stretched out his legs the older he has gotten, morphing the Pumpkins' signature spacey, ethereal sound into a metallic and intricately-woven mass of crunching riffs and avant-noise. He's grown out of the cage the music industry built for him.

In hindsight, Corgan was always "the" Pumpkins, but when pop culture groupthinks about the band, of course they will always see the classic line-up of Corgan, James Iha, D'arcy Wretzky, and Jimmy Chamberlin. It's a tough pill to swallow for some, and it's not comfortable, unless you think of the situation logically and from a artistic standpoint.

Even Aftermath has felt it, but with more thought this new system fits Corgan.

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Looking fuller and broader than in years past, Corgan took the stage around 10:40 p.m. with his new-era Pumpkins behind him in front of a Warehouse Live crowd of almost 2,000. He looked giddy and playful at times, even during the night's most grueling new passages. The band, now consisting of bass pin-up Nicole Fiorentino, teen drummer Mike Byrne and guitarist Jeff Schroeder, firmly held their places the whole night.

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Opening with "My Love Is Winter," the Pumpkins held the packed room at rapt attention, an almost unheard-of feat for a Houston throng. Two more new songs followed, "A Song For a Son" and "Astral Planes," both from the ongoing Teargarden by Kaleidyscope album project.

The new work is expansive, with the former bringing to mind 1996 B-side "The Last Song." The simpler songs from earlier in the band's canon come off like bubblegum-rock compared to the current crop of Pumpkins material.

Older songs would form out of jams in between each other, sometimes taking us off-guard, like "Ava Adore," which was rendered partially unrecognizable. If you felt metal in the Pumpkins' former works, Corgan and company brought it out last night. They turned Lost Highway soundtrack cut "Eye" into something utterly different than the way it has been known the past 13 years. Sadly, it didn't benefit from a full-band recitation.

During the last half of "Bullet With Butterfly Wings," Corgan turned over vocal duties to the crowd, who promptly dropped the ball. At first he acted perturbed, leading us to go on high alert. But then he went into a two-minute routine playfully baiting everyone, which was lost on parts of the crowd.

"The rat is me and you are the fucking cage," he hectored. Strange that the packed house couldn't remember the lines to one of the band's most beloved angst-ridden anthems.

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