Smashing Pumpkins : Manchester : live review


The Smashing Pumpkins

Manchester Academy 1

July 2013

Post Glastonbury comedown turns into a triumph


The Smashing Pumpkins have come to Manchester straight from a triumphant Glastonbury slot in front of tens of thousands of people.

The Academy is far smaller than the stadium’s they are usually greeted with, not to mention being under capacity on a Monday night at the start of the working month, and main pumpkin head Billy Corgan looks pissed off.

His contempt is palpable and puts me on the back foot immediately. I’d have thought a musician of his stature would relish the chance to downscale and play more personal shows to cleanse the ego’s palate now and then.

Regardless, the bulk of the crowd was receptive to the point of hero worship. From the off, people screamed every word until Corgan realised the error of his ways, eventually cracking a smile and enjoying himself like a sadistic schoolboy burning ants in the Sun.

The set is filled with moments of classic rock bombast that belie Corgan’s love of British bands, made explicit with the inclusions of Bowie and Led Zep covers. There are guitar and drum solo’s aplenty as well as little passages that segue the set together. I would usually scorn the crowd baiting trickery on offer but it never deviated from the impressive songbook Corgan has amassed single handedly over the years. He is, after all, the sole creative force behind the band and is rumoured to have play most instruments except drums whenever recording.

For me, the Pumpkins quieter moments are what get the blood pumping. Disarm played back to back with Tonight, Tonight had people in tears and are a reminder of how important this band is. Stand Inside Your Love should be framed in an art gallery it’s that stunning, melding the heaviness of their rockier moments with something unique to Corgan’s soul that could only ever be the Smashing Pumpkins. Likewise with Thirty Three which has a melody that seems to capture teen angst better than the school bell ringing.

Like all brilliant bands, they’re far from one dimensional and the heavy tunes are a brilliant offset to any moments that run the risk of getting too sincere. Zero is performed with punkish snarl and material from 2007’s ‘Zeitgest’ takes off where musical saviours QOTSA left us in the bland and inoffensive landscape known as the noughties.

Ave Adore sounded far heavier than on record and had me digging out the Adore album which I’d dismissed as a teenager for it’s lack of immediacy, especially as it followed their magnum opus, ‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’.

Billy Corgan wouldn’t give a shit about my initial snobbery or expectations and that should be respected. He’s begun releasing eleven concept e.p.’s these days (the preposterously titled ‘Teargarden by Kaleidoscope’) and his fire shows no sign of dimming. He doesn’t care for trends and neither do his fans. By the end of the night he returned the respect shown to him and treated them to 1979, a song that rarely ever gets an inclusion into the Pumpkins set list.

When the lights went up, the giddy crowd revealed the forgotten alternative bands of the 90’s adorned on their sweat soaked shirts. The Smashing Pumpkins have longevity because they always stood apart from their contemporaries. After playing second fiddle to Young Marble Giants covers band The XX at Glastonbury it looks like they’ll continue this tradition. A true outsider band uniting the freaks and ghouls.

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