Smashing Pumpkins - O2 Academy, Glasgow, Tue 2 Jul 2013
Billy Corgan and co perform steady rock concert and show long-term ambition
The unlikely renaissance of 90s alternative monoliths The Smashing Pumpkins back in 2007 was met with some trepidation. Frontman Billy Corgan boldly announced he would continue to build on the band's legacy, albeit without their so-called 'classic line-up'. Many people sneered from afar about the lack of authenticity and dollar sign transparency of such a shallow pursuit. Yet in fairness, there's nothing classic about a line-up that has grown apart out of creative crisis, infighting and a sense of musical indifference towards their own endeavours. What people remember most fondly is the musical lexicon born out of those frailties, yet those same fans somehow feel short changed when they can no longer attribute the music to a familiar face that they may harbour very nostalgic feelings towards. With this sentiment no doubt firmly placed in his subconscious, Billy Corgan's uncompromising drive has attempted to prove that the myth of a classic line-up can easily be dispelled by exposing the expendable nature of its assets.
Like the titular character in HG Wells' The Island of Dr Moreau, Corgan has assumed the obligatory ‘God Complex’, tirelessly trying to recreate the Pumpkins in his own image; dissecting various aspects while meticulously piecing others together in order to speed up their evolution into an entirely different animal, thus far with varied results. However, with last year's Oceania LP seemingly winning over a number of critics, Corgan may have finally developed a remedial formula that sees his band of young pups making the transition into a well-oiled, reinvigorated version of the outfit of old.
Hot off the heels from their triumphant Glastonbury appearance, the Pumpkins' blistering Glasgow intro ‘Porcelina of the Vast Oceans’ instantly ingratiates itself. It hinges on Corgan's scuzzy, lo-fi, demon-in-a-shoebox guitar tone, one of the most unmistakable components of the defining Pumpkins sound. As Corgan casts an ominous Nosferatu-esque silhouette over the audience, his new cohorts appear comfortable in his presence while anticipating more tectonic shifts in prog-rock dynamics littered throughout the set, while kaleidoscopic visuals swirl vibrantly on the mosaic screens behind.
'We thank you for enjoying our trip', a self-assured and somewhat humbled Corgan blurts out. While tracks of old such as ‘Disarm’ and ‘Tonight Tonight’ pierce effortlessly with their haunting arrangements, newer offerings such as the synth-orientated ‘Pinwheels’ have a New Order-tinged fanboy vibe to them. This is polarised by riff-laden tracks such as ‘Zero’ and ‘Bullet with Butterfly Wings’, maintaining their penchant for seething nihilism. Despite a couple of indulgent covers thrown in for playful measure ('Space Oddity', 'Immigrant Song') the Pumpkins seem to have a clearer focus on their long-term ambitions now, with Corgan having carefully developed the rock steady vehicle that his music finally deserves, and pushing aside the melodrama of a bygone era.