AS one of our thornier rock stars, Billy Corgan may be criticised on several fronts, but his ambition cannot be knocked.
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It is not enough for him simply to reactivate Smashing Pumpkins, one of the biggest global rock bands of the 90s, with an entirely new line-up, he has to announce a spanking brand-new concept opus to go with it.
The typically cumbersomely titled Teargarden By Kaleidyscope has been a work-in-progress for the past few years and has already been through a couple of rewrites but fortunately Corgan and Co keep coming back to their strong suits – bursts of thundering metal-influenced riffola interspersed with wistful, even romantic, melodic numbers.
New drummer Mike Byrne looked like a harmless college kid but drummed like a demon, giving new songs such as Panopticon that crucial rocket propulsion over which guitarist Jeff Schroeder could liberally spread his wah-wah guitar. However, Smashing Pumpkins Mk Whatever were a pretty uncharismatic bunch.
In contrast, Corgan remained an imposing, largely cheerless focal point as he took a sledgehammer to David Bowie’s Space Oddity and unleashed his most indulgent prophet of doom delivery on a mighty X.Y.U.
Corgan reaffirmed his band’s intentions to keep doing whatever they want to do, but this encompassed accessible favourite Tonight, Tonight which soared in a manner Mumford and Sons can only aspire to as much as the (self-)flagellating Bullet With Butterfly Wings, laboured Ava Adore or the unexpected synthesizer phasing which featured on a couple of the new songs.
There were longueurs throughout the two-hour show, but the successive pile-driving waves of set-closer United States really demonstrated this band’s mettle an unbelievable 25 years to the month since their first-ever gig in that Polish bar in Chicago, rendering their encore cover of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song somewhat superfluous.