THE SMASHING PUMPKINS
Wednesday, Sept. 1
You may as well know I still miss D'arcy. It probably goes without saying that I miss James Iha, too; everyone does.
Mostly, though, I miss my cat. Pumpkin died a week before The Smashing Pumpkins' Rialto show, nearly 15 years after we spent our first evening together listening to a radio broadcast of the concert that launched the band's tour for the epic and aesthetically comprehensive Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
"Did you know that record sold 4 1/2 million copies?" Billy Corgan asked his band du tour, probably rhetorically. In a fragment of the evening's rare stage banter, he said, "Maybe I'll go back to writing poetry. That poetry thing, it worked out."
The crowd packed tightly into the Rialto included a few graying heads and growing paunches, but the attendees were mostly younger. When Corgan asked members of the younger contingent how old they were when they first heard "Disarm," which they were singing without missing a word, answers ranged from "about 10" to "high school"—the very years in our lives when most of us say the music was the best ever.
With an eye-blistering light show, likely designed for much larger venues, Corgan and company rocked the audience to within a hairsbreadth of chaos by treading off a set list that's been fairly consistent on this tour (drawing criticism from a few message-board denizens). This was a show for the fans, packed with rarities and one-offs, and with a spectacular surprise or two, the wildest and most wonderful being Corgan's solo reinvention of Jimi Hendrix's "Star Spangled Banner." The weirdest and most fun, though, was when, in an encore the fans worked hard for, he finally unfurled "Zero" in the middle of a Kiss cover.
The set started with "Tristessa" from the band's 1991 launch pad, Gish, followed immediately by "Astral Planes" from the monumental Teargarden by Kaleidyscope project being released via download from Smashingpumpkins.com. Then came the 1992 single "Drown," and so it went for 20 songs, taken from seemingly every album, single, soundtrack and compilation-only recording in The Smashing Pumpkins catalog.
It was a noisy, energizing and ultimately flawless spectacle. By the end of it, I only missed my cat.