Blew Away (live)
By Dwip August 27, 2018, 6:37 pm Comments (0) RSS Feed for this post

So, one of these days we’re going to discuss my prolonged absence from this blog, and that day may come sooner rather than later. For the moment, however, I’m going to give you a concert review, somewhat in the style of days of yore.

As you may or may not recall, I last saw the Smashing Pumpkins almost exactly 10 years ago on their 20th anniversary tour. While ultimately a pretty great experience, this concert was not without its flaws – the sound at the Mohegan Sun Arena was super shitty, and Billy was in his super weird place that time around. So, pretty good time, could have been better. Also would’ve liked to have seen the original lineup from the 90s, but I guess that’s not happ…

…what’s this you say? The original crew minus D’arcy is reuniting and going on a 30th anniversary tour, playing all the hits up through Machina, and they’re talking about a new album? And they’re coming to Portland, no less, so I actually have a chance to see them? Please, take my money. I beg of you.

So I went and did that thing Saturday, and now I have some things to say about the experience:

– This was not a trip without some personal sacrifice. I spent the entire week waking up at 3:30 in the morning to go work overtime, took a nap on Friday, then turned around to drive 2.5 hours to go see a concert that started right on about bedtime. Many caffeinated beverages were harmed in the making of this blog post.

– Man, screw I-5. Why are there so many god damned wrecks up near Portland? Why? Why was there a friggin’ wreck at midnight going south? Learn to drive, people.

– Man, driving in Portland blows. That said, the Moda Center parking garage basically spits you out back onto I-5, which is super nice at 11:45 at night when you can’t see shit.

– While the winner of the Best Possible Seating award probably still goes to U2 in 2005 when Sarah’s dad scored us sweet box seats, my seat for this concert was pretty damn good:

4th row back, aisle seat, practically in the center. Due to the weird way the seating was arranged, my seat was kind of off by itself with nothing in front of it, so I had a totally unobstructed view of the stage. And it was sweet.

– I was wearing the oldest actual SP shirt that I saw, though there was a dude with a rad Zwan shirt outside. Also a guy with glowing devil horns down in GA, so that was cool. Also lots of people with some pretty fucking sick concert shirts from other bands.

– There was a nice mix of old 90s fans like me and younger folks. Also a couple of dudes old enough to be my parents, which rock on to you.

– Whereas in days of yore my concert going experiences featured Fist Pumping Guy at U2 and Hopping Girl at SP, I’m pretty sure I am now That Guy at concerts. The one who sings along to every song, hand drums, shouts “YEAH!” at every new song, and generally rocks the fuck out. That was me. I am unashamed. Further shoutout to the guy down in A row across the aisle doing pretty much the same shit I was doing, except he jumped up and started fist pumping during the vocal solo in Everlasting Gaze, which made me absurdly happy. Also shoutout to the people throwing the horns at various points. In general, the crowd was pretty into it without being super obnoxious.

– I don’t know that I have a lot to say about it necessarily, but whoever did the visual design for this tour needs a raise, because it was great, probably my favorite of the concerts I’ve seen. Lots of weird art deco stuff, old band footage, callbacks to old music videos, and some sort of story going on that I didn’t quite get but am hoping for a tour DVD so I can review it again.

– I’m not normally much for the opening bands I’ve seen (Muse, Kings of Leon), but I decided to watch the Metric set solely on the strength of that one song from Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, and…they were pretty good. I’m going to have to check out an album or two at some point.

– So like, not counting Metric’s set, this concert was like 3 fucking hours long and covered a lot of ground, so I’m only going to talk about the highlights. Because check this out:

Disarm (Billy Corgan solo acoustic)
Rocket
Siva
Rhinoceros
Space Oddity (David Bowie cover)
Drown
Zero
The Everlasting Gaze
Stand Inside Your Love
Thirty-Three
Eye
Soma
Blew Away
For Martha
To Sheila
Mayonaise
Porcelina of the Vast Oceans
Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Tonight, Tonight
Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin cover)
Cherub Rock
1979
Ava Adore
Try, Try, Try
The Beginning is the End is the Beginning
Hummer
Today
Bullet With Butterfly Wings
Muzzle
Solara
Baby Mine (Betty Noyes cover)

Pretty much every single they ever had, minus a couple three, but none of it really objectionable in any way. I’d have replaced For Martha with Perfect, and Stand Inside Your Love with Heavy Metal Machine, and I was hoping for Snail, and I was hoping for Geek USA or something to let Jimmy show off a bit, but man, fuck it, this was a great setlist and I can’t complain at all.

– While a little bit stilted sometimes (not as much improv as days of yore, and there were little transitional pauses between most or all of the songs instead of just rolling right into the next thing (like days of yore), gotta say that everyone on that stage sounded super tight and as good as they’ve ever been, especially Billy, who just straight up murdered it every time he had a solo of any kind.

– Like you kind of wonder about what the hell they were going to do with three guitarists up on that stage, but it’s the Pumpkins so of course they found something. Pumpkins guitar wall of sound and all that.

– Speaking of the sound, I’ve never heard a concert sound that perfect in my life. After the abysmal sonic experience I had with a dramatically overloud SP in 2008, I had no great expectations, and hell even after both my U2 shows my ears kinda hurt, but the sound at this concert was incredible – clear, absolutely the right volume, absolutely the right vocal/instrumental mix, everything. Whoever the sound guy is deserves a raise, too.

Some song by song notes:

– I mean, I never would’ve come up with solo acoustic Disarm for the opener, but Billy playing that song by himself with a montage of pictures and video from his childhood was incredibly powerful and probably worth the ticket price right there. Very possibly the best part of the show.

– I’ve heard it said that Space Oddity was kind of a weird choice, especially where it was in the setlist, but at least where I was people were pretty into it.

– I mean, I got to hear Drown live, so I guess I can cross that off the bucket list. I really really wanted to hear Drown and Disarm, so 2 for 2 in the first few songs is doing pretty great. I also wanted to hear Thru the Eyes of Ruby and didn’t, but still, 2 for 3 is pretty damn great.

– I’d again like to give a shoutout to the guy in A row who A) looked kind of like Gale from Breaking Bad except with less hair; B) went totally fucking berserk during Everlasting Gaze. I am absurdly happy that somebody not only seems to like Machina as much as I do, but also likes one of Billy’s best moments as a vocalist.

– Fuck yeah, they played Eye, and it was pretty great. Not the absolute best I’ve heard, but still super cool.

– Some good cheering and horns throwing during the exact moment you’d expect in Soma, which again made me absurdly happy.

– James getting to sing Blew Away also made me ludicrously happy, as did various Billy and James moments that would hopefully signify that they’re having fun with each other as in days of yore. In fact, the whole band seemed to be genuinely having fun up on that stage, which is marked contrast to what I saw in 2008 and really just sort of makes me glad about all of this. As a fan, you want something like the original lineup having a reunion tour to be this fun experience that reminds everyone why they loved the band (or their bandmates) in the first place, and that for all appearances seemed to happen here. That was awesome.

– Even knowing how important For Martha is to Billy personally, even hearing it live, I guess I can still do without it as a song. Just not my thing. Still sang along though.

– There was a fairly prolonged point during Porcelina where the band’s instruments were making my entire body vibrate. I think maybe a couple of my fillings moved. It was pretty epic.

– I’m not sure what I would have thought about SP doing a Stairway to Heaven cover beforehand, and I’m not going to say it was better or even on par with Led Zeppelin, and hell, I’m not even going to say it’s as good as the SP version of Landslide (which is best version), but yeah, it was pretty good. I liked it.

– Like, it still boggles me a little how crazy the crowd gets when Billy sings “you will always be my whores” during Ava Adore, but those singalong “we must never be apart” sections definitely reached me somewhere in my soul. There were a bunch of singalong callouts in a bunch of songs, and they generally went over pretty well, but I think everybody was definitely feeling it during Ava Adore. Also that song is fucking awesome live.

– And speaking of awesome, I didn’t even consider them playing any of the Batman songs, but I think my face melted off somewhere in the middle of that little excursion.

– I mean, were it me I’d have picked Geek USA over Hummer, all things considered, but that’s about the best I’ve ever heard Hummer played.

– I’d have never really thought about Muzzle as the closer, but I guess that’s why Billy Corgan is a megastar and I’m me, because people loved it. Like, people in my section were rushing to the railing to fist pump and rock out together, lots of people singing along, and it was awesome. Just fantastic.

– Hey, everybody who left before the encore. If they don’t turn the house lights on, don’t leave, dumbasses. A shocking number of people did this.

– I wasn’t really all that enthusiastic about Solara when the video came out, if we’re being honest, but as a live song it rocks, and rocks hard. Little boring on the video, even, but crazy intense live. For me and the half of the crowd that stayed.

– I am…unclear what to say about the last song. Kind of random, I guess? Also I was pretty tired at that point?

So yeah, I got home at 1:30 in the morning, and I didn’t so much as feel my head hit the pillow, but worth it. Totally worth it. As somebody who’s been a Smashing Pumpkins fan for a very long time now, I remain ecstatic about the experience I had days after the fact, and suspect it will go solidly into the highlights of my life column.

Perfect experience. Couldn’t ask for more.


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