Smashing Pumpkins' S.F. Tour Opener Filled With Surprizes

There were three percussionists onstage, the band actually seemed to be enjoying themselves, and someone from Mayor Willie Brown's office formally declared it Smashing Pumpkins Day. ("It means you have to pay us all your taxes and we have keys to all your houses," joked frontman Billy Corgan.) The opening night of the Smashing Pumpkins' 16-date American charity tour at San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Tuesday (June 30) was filled with surprises. The band played their latest album, Adore, in its entirety during the two-hour set, kicking off the night with an energized version of the disc's opening track "To Sheila." Dressed uniformly in black, the seven-piece touring outfit slowly built up the subdued song into a hazy rock jam accented by guitarist James Iha's screeching fretwork and the sound of tribal drums. Following with the sinister "Behold! The Night Mare," the band quickly set the tone for the rest of the evening: propulsive rhythms, jazzy keyboards and melodramatic reworkings of their most current material. Corgan didn't even acknowledge the bewildered audience, apart from a few "thank you"s, until midway through the set. "What we're trying to do on this tour is play all our album Adore," he said. He then apologized for having to use a lyric sheet for "Annie-Dog," a quietly subdued highlight from the disc that the Smashing Pumpkins had never tried out live before. The singer giggled and mimed his way through the song, finally easing the crowd after an hour of headstrong rock jams. The band then turned on the charm full-force with a subdued rewrite of "Perfect" and a near acoustic rendering of their first familiar hit of the show, "Tonight, Tonight." Corgan dedicated the latter tune to the audience -- "for being supportive of us and appreciating what we're trying to do," he said. It was a magical moment, replete with rustic electric piano accents and manic cheers of adoration. Later, an extended Grateful Dead- style percussion workout led into the familiar chords of "Bullet with Butterfly Wings." But when the song finally kicked in, the band brilliantly rendered it tuneless amid waves of feedback worthy of Sonic Youth and rhythmic heat worthy of Pancho Sanchez. Corgan merely spit out the verses, turning a haggard MTV hit into an exciting and fresh punk anthem. Things cooled off considerably with "Shame," another spotless ballad from Adore. Then Corgan announced, "One more song, we have limousines to catch." This set off a chorus of boos, although it was unclear whether it was because of his comment or because the show was coming to an end. The band then played a sleepy version of "For Martha," which left bassist D'Arcy Wretzky, in her black glitter devil horns and mesh tank-top, alone onstage with the percussionists as the song wound down. When they returned for the encore, the Pumpkins brought up onstage with them the aforementioned representative from the mayor's office (more boos) and a small boy named Travis, who accepted a $170,590 check from the band on behalf of the East Bay Agency for Children. "Travis, don't spend it all in one place," D'Arcy quipped. The band then dug into an energized version of "1979" before falling back into goth supper club mode on "Blank Page." Judging by the astonished expressions on the faces of the fans filing out of the venue, the new Smashing Pumpkins came across far better than anyone could have predicted.

Source: Allstar Magazine