NEW YORK -- The Pumpkins took Manhattan on Thursday evening, or at least one block of it.
In order to film an appearance on CBS-TV's "Late Show with David Letterman," modern-rock favorites Smashing Pumpkins transformed a block of West 53rd Street adjacent to the show's Ed Sullivan Theater into an impromptu concert venue, filling the street with an estimated 3,000 people and shutting down traffic for hours.
But in the middle of an additional set of songs that was broadcast live on four radio stations across the country, the police shut the concert down, leaving at least three songs unplayed.
"There were at least an additional three or four songs to go," Pumpkins spokesperson Gayle Fine said. "[They] just came up to the side stage and said, 'After this song, that's it.' " Fine added that the police didn't offer a reason for the shutdown.
Fans in the tightly packed crowd seemed unaware that the concert had ended earlier than planned. They only complained about the refusal of the police and event organizers to let spectators into the barricaded area closest to the stage, which had been reserved for contest winners, VIPs and the "Late Show" audience.
After the "Late Show" audience was escorted out of the area, Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan asked that fans be allowed in, but few made it.
"Those people are a------s. Billy said to let us in and they didn't. But the Pumpkins rule, and Billy rules," said Liz Blanchard, a 16-year-old fan from Rahway, N.J., who said she'd waited in the heat for more than two hours to get as close as possible to the Pumpkins.
Despite the early shutdown, the Pumpkins bashed their way through full-scale renditions of six songs, all but one of which were from their latest album, Adore. "Perfect," "1979" (RealAudio excerpt) and "To Sheila" (RealAudio excerpt) were played for use on the "Late Show," and "Ava Adore," "Pug" and "Crestfallen" were played for live broadcasts on radio stations K-Rock in New York, KROQ in L.A., WBCN in Boston and WHFS in Washington, D.C.
Like the other two Pumpkins -- bassist D'Arcy and guitarist James Iha -- frontman Corgan wore all black, despite the 90-degree heat that caused a number of fans to nearly pass out.
Though the venue was decidedly odd -- the stage was wedged between two tall buildings, which swallowed much of the band's sound -- Corgan was fully engaged in the performance. He shook his head and body as he sang, and he played a poignant guitar solo on "To Sheila."
Although Adore takes a step away from the guitar-heavy sound of the Pumpkins' past, in live performance the songs came off as hard-hitting as anything the band has done.
In the shadows of the Manhattan skyscrapers, "Ava Adore" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Perfect" lost the electronic sheen of the album versions, becoming straight-ahead rockers. In fact, "Ava Adore" sounded almost like thrash metal, at least until a jazzy keyboard solo was played in the middle of the song.
Having seen and heard it all, Liz Galvin, a 19-year-old fan from Brooklyn, said she didn't mind the hassle of the wait and the earlier-than-expected ending. "It was definitely worth it. A free Smashing Pumpkins concert here in the streets of New York City, surrounded by buildings. What could be better?" she said.
The Pumpkins, who have been donating all proceeds from their current tour to select charities, are scheduled to perform two concerts at a more traditional Manhattan venue, Radio City Music Hall, on Saturday (Aug. 1) and Sunday (Aug. 2). All proceeds from those shows will go to the Hale House in Harlem, which cares for needy children.