Revision as of 13:36, 23 October 2005 by Rhinowing
Article from 08.04.98 New York Daily News:
Gourd Vibrations The Pumpkins revert to Smashing mode at Radio City
Nothing sounded like it used to at The Smashing Pumpkins' concert at Radio City Saturday night. Songs that soothed and floated on disc thrashed and burned live. Numbers with big arrangements got pared to something spare. Old melodies fell away, new riffs took their place and different instruments assumed lead or support parts.
You'd think the Pumpkins had something to run from. And in a way, they did, considering the songs they chose to rejigger. Eleven of the 16 pieces performed this night came from the group's baffling new LP, "Adore." ("Abhor" might be more like it.)
It's a strange piece of work, purposely swerving from every strength of Pumpkin head Billy Corgan while careening full-speed into his faults. Corgan finds his forte in banshee screams and raging riffs. "Adore" goes for gentle croons and lithe tunes. It's understandable that an ambitious artist like Corgan would want to make a bid for earnest expression after having explored anger so extensively on his other albums. But however much humanity he holds in his heart, he has little talent for tender or beautiful expression.
Live, he made fewer bids for either. Rather, he led the band into bold new territory, not often with great success but at least with guts and occasional brilliance. If Corgan had threatened in the past to bring back elements of '70s art-rock, here he went for it in a far bigger way. The band this night featured a guest keyboardist (Mike Garson) who added noodling solos that Rick Wakeman might approve of, plus no fewer than three drummers, led by the most muscular stickman in rock, Kenny Aronoff. On all but the quietest numbers in this two-hour set, Aronoff forced a pummeling beat behind what had been lighter songs on record. Together it created a kind of gothic art-metal, roughly reminiscent of King Crimson's mid-'70s work circa "Red."
Unfortunately, playing the songs with more force didn't add more momentum. Most of the new songs still plodded while the dual guitar solos (Corgan and James Iha) droned. Numbers like "Once Upon a Time" or "Tear" proved torturous for all their daring.
Not until the concert's final third did the band match its approach to worthy material. In the older "Bullet With Butterfly Wings," they shafted the original guitar riff and let the drummers rule, pounding and thrashing to electrifying effect. Likewise, the new "For Martha" found the two guitarists on soaring solos reminiscent of Robert Fripp at his most gloriously harsh. Such moments weren't enough to redeem all that went before, but it did reassert Corgan as an artist you can never count out.