11th November 2011
First things first – this isn’t really the Smashing Pumpkins. Jimmy Chamberlin is drumming elsewhere, having apparently found the initial Pumpkins reunion ‘musically unfulfilling’; bassist D’Arcy Wretzky, judging by last year’s mugshot and tragically-tipsy call to a local radio station, is firmly in the grip of drug addiction, and original guitarist James Iha’s relationship with his old bandmates is long since beyond repair after a decade of acrimony. Thus, Billy Corgan, frontman and principle songwriter, takes the Apollo stage tonight with a band of session musicians, promoting new record Oceania in what he’s admitted is a last-ditch attempt to regain some relevance for what was once the world’s biggest rock band.
If Corgan can’t win the masses back over – an arena tour and slew of headline festival appearances in 2008 met with lukewarm reviews – he can certainly try to preach to the more dedicated of the once-converted. Accordingly, tonight’s setlist falls firmly into the ‘fans favourites’ category; not only does it do away with any material from the decidedly-poor comeback record Zeitgeist, but it also sees the airing of more obscure material from their hit records. Huge singles ‘Today’ and ‘Disarm’ are foregone in favour of ‘Geek U.S.A.’ and ‘Silverfuck’, to a fervent response; the evening’s mellower moments are provided not by the gold-certified ‘1979’, but the lesser-known ‘Soma’ and ‘For Martha’ instead. It’s a move that less wins over the crowd than has them in raptures, and secures considerable enthusiasm for the inevitable appearance of brand-new tracks. Nevertheless, Corgan saves a couple of his biggest hitters for last, signing off with the furious guitar of ‘Zero’ and searing ‘Bullet with Butterfly Wings’; this might not have been the genuine article, but it was certainly good enough for me.