With the Great Pumpkin (live)
By Dwip November 17, 2008, 1:19 pm Comments Off on With the Great Pumpkin (live) RSS Feed for this post

In which, to complete the two concerts needed to see my two favorite bands, Sarah took me last night to go see the Smashing Pumpkins at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville on their 20th anniversary tour.

…you, there in the back, with the Last of the Mohicans jokes. Go ahead. We thought them too.

As I say, this is the second of two concerts needed to see my favorite bands. The first, for U2, took place in 2005, and was notable among other things for being the first time we’d met in person. And now here we are.

A word about the Mohegan Sun, which is a Really Large Casino, and that word is “Oi.” Not so much the driving on I-95 or I-395 parts, as they were sedate. More the getting lost in the maze of parking garages before finding the one with the shuttle, and going with that. I was pleased to have finally found a place to park for free in CT, though as Sarah noted, it’s not like they aren’t trying to take my money in other ways.

The less we say about trying to find food in the local area, the better, although that parking lot in the pizza place that was randomly closed was…I don’t think small even begins to cover it. In either case, we found a food court in the casino, which provided me with the World’s Saltiest $3 Pretzel, Now With Extra Salt.

It also provided us with some Chinese TV, the content of which I am unsure how to describe to you, because, for serious guys, WTF? But so far as I can tell, it was some sort of General Hospital meets the D&D Movie thing, featuring:

– A Very Angry Chinese Woman In A White Dress, Who May Be Evil;

– The Chinese Rahm Emanuel, who pretty much stands there a lot;

– Some Chinese Guy In A Business Suit, who spouted some dialogue I didn’t understand and attacked some dying guy in a hospital bed with scissors;

– The Token Half-White Guy, who looks like he fronted for the Chinese Goo Goo Dolls when he’s not…actually I have no idea what he was doing;

– Forest Shaman Guy, who is fascinating to me not just because he randomly shows up in a forest, conjures CGI fire, then conjures some CGI spirits or something, then conjures some CGI purple thing that chases this dude’s SUV, and also turns Business Suit Guy into a demon or something, but also because he wears this crazy turban and vest getup and looks like some random sailor from a Sinbad movie, and none of the otherwise ostensibly modern people are like “Dude, WTF are you wearing?” or the Chinese equivilent.

Anyway, so we went to this concert. No opening act, began pretty promptly at 7:30, much to the confusion of several hundred people who didn’t show up until later, the losers (we got there at 6:45), and ended about 3 hours later.

The crowd was wierd. Fair number of people my age, to be sure, and some people who must be either new fans, or got MCIS handed to them in the cradle, as well as some genuine actual old people, which struck me as a bit odd. Not a previous concert or other SP shirt to be seen, which struck me as very strange.

As a frequent listener to shows from across the Pumpkins’ career, I feel like I’ve been inducted into something, insofar as the shit the crowd yells hasn’t changed at all over the years. The “I LOVE YOU BILLLYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!” screams remain…precisely the same, so as I could hear one from 1995 and the ones last night, and not be able to tell which was which.

Also a guy who yelled “Freebird!” at random, and got a lot of laughs.

Whereas in days of yore at the U2 concert, we had Fist Pumping Guy, who spent the whole show doing just that, I think the star of this show is Hopping Girl, who spent a good chunk of the show hopping up and down and clapping her hands and I think squeeing in delight.

And there was much to squee about, so let’s actually talk about it:

A couple notes – the SP sound was generally louder than the relatively tiny Mohegan Sun Arena could take. Which was fine on the one hand, as being vibrated by guitars is kind of cool, and not so fine on the other, because about half the time I had no idea WTF I was listening to. Also, at various points there was amp, mic, or both trouble, which meant whatever Billy was singing, nobody could hear him.

As to the songs:

They led off with I Am One Part 2, which was cool, although it sounded nothing at all like the version I know, which I guess was sort of a harbinger of the future. Billy’s mic may as well not have been on for the whole thing, which meant I was like “is this what I think it is? Maybe? Er?” the whole time.

By contrast, everybody knows Soma, which was awesome, done as in days of yore, done perfectly. Big cheers here – another foreshadowing, as I think most of the people there were like me, SD and MCIS fans my age lately come back.

The setlist and Sarah tell me they played Tarantula followed by the new song G.L.O.W., which I’ll take their word for. I only recognized that it was new stuff, shrugged, realized that a good chunk of any SP show is going to having your senses exploded while you are confused as to what you are hearing, and enjoyed. As with all the Zeitgeist era stuff, these were probably at least 15 minutes worth of show.

I of the Mourning was good as always, although as Sarah noted to me, the album version remaind superior, but Mayonaise about caused a riot of deleriously happy fans, and Tonight Tonight was worth price of admission. “You may not remember this song,” Billy says to us, “the 90s were kind of a rough time.” Somewhere in here, I stopped saying “Yay, I’m finally at an SP show!” and was in some sense hauled back to my adolescence when I heard Tonight Tonight on the radio and it changed my life.

A Song for a Son is new. I think I like it, although I’d like to hear a studio version of it to really hear what he’s singing. I THINK it was a little repetetive, but again, I liked it – sort of a droning, timeless quality about it, I think.

Continuing with new stuff, they did Superchrist followed by United States. This is what the setlist tells me – I couldn’t detect an actual break between the two, and again, it was like 15 minutes worth of song, so who the hell knows. What I will say is that while I’m not sure I want to do this again anytime soon, the intro part of this, where Billy was essentially making machine gun sounds with his guitar while the wall of lights behind the band flickered at some manic intensity, was an awesome spectacle of rock music, one of those things that cannot be replicated except with a stage and a few thousand people and a ton of amps and lights. Worth admission right there.

After blowing our ears out, they went accoustic for a time. I’m not sure I could seperate 99 Floors and Owata, and I think they were fine, but I need more listening and cleaner versions to really tell. I have no such problems with Landslide, which was as always amazing. To then have it go into one of the best versions of Disarm I’ve ever heard, complete with violin intro, well. There are reasons one is a fan of a band for well over a decade, let us say, and reasons why I must now forever love my girlfriend for providing me with moments such as this.

Oh, then, following what the setlist tells me was Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (which was cool but didn’t sound like MCIS to me), they went electric again, with Today, Cherub Rock, Zero, and Bodies all in a row.

Yes, SP fans, all in a row we got accoustic Landslide, Disarm, and MCIS, followed by Today, Cherub Rock, Zero, and Bodies. I see no possible way in which I can argue with that. That I should have also liked to have heard BWBW and 1979 is merely an observation rather than a suggestion of any sort of displeasure.

That having been said, following that set, the show rapidly descended into WTF Pumpkins Jam territory:

– Gossamer? Ok. Very long and jammish.

– SP covers Sounds of Silence, throws in Little Red Riding Hood snippets? Well, the music they actually played was awesome, but it wasn’t Sounds of Silence, and for the snippet part Billy was just making shit up rather than actually singing. Not that this was bad, mind you, but an observation.

– The ultra-long, super-jam version of Heavy Metal Machine? Pretty good, except that it bore no actual resemblance to that song. They said it was, Billy sang the words, but otherwise no relation. However, there was an awesome transition into Glass’ Theme to end the main set that was amazing, and an awesome, if almost painful, ended. Sarah actually balled up with her hands over her ears for that bit. Me, I liked it.

That having been said, I wish I could summon any sort of enthusiasm for the encore, which I described to Sarah (who fled in terror at this point), as Billy channeling his inner Pink Floyd, only to later discover that it was, in fact, a cover of Pink Floyd’s Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun – 15 minutes or so worth of bizzare, spacey, all over the map, dude-I’m-on-an-acid-trip-whoa jam rock. Mind you that I am not opposed to this, normally, and it being a Pumpkins show you know you’re in for something like it at some point. However, after all that long ass Zeitgeist stuff? Too much. Way too much.

In the event, to recap this and the U2 concert:

– U2 fan for 8 years at time of concert, mised multiple opportunies for a concert previously, now have done this and have t-shirt.

– SP fan for 13 years at time of concert, missed multiple opportunies for a concert previously, now have done this and have t-shirt.

– Responsible for this is one girl who seems to make it her business that I should hear good music and collect t-shirts, not to mention fulfill my life goals in regards to these two things, which I can heartily endorse. I believe I shall be keeping her about for a time.

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