Well, billed as ‘The Smashing Pumpkins’ but only one original member – Billy Corgan, now bearing a bit of facial fuzz for what he lacks on his noggin – remains. (Maybe this is why their Twitter name is ’Smashing Pumpkin’. Support came from the spectacularly named shoegazers Ringo Deathstarr. Every eye in the audience, including both of mine, however, was transfixed by undulating part-time doe-eyed model and bassist Alex Gehring.
Monday, 21 November 2011
Smashing Pumpkins at the Brixton Academy – 15.11.11
And the music? Oh yeah. Shimmering, catchy, scuzzy, My Bloody Valentine-y. Strange banter: “we may be from Texas, but we still go to work on horses". You what?
I initially experienced a bit of trepidation given the shoegaze tag – how do you avoid being lulled to sleep? Thankfully there were more up-tempo bouncy Sonic Youth-y numbers than the epic Mogwai-esque droning route that could have been taken. I was glad, as after a day of traipsing around London in New Rocks (why do I always do that before a gig) I was already thinking about pyjamas.
After not too long a wait, there came a 2 hour set from the Pumpkins. This Smashing Pumpkins review from the Guardian’s Ian Gittins pretty much nails it. Unassuming drummer Mike Byrne, another foxy bassist in the shape of Veruca Salt’s Nicole Fiorentino who borrowed from Gehring’s grey knee-high socked look, seemingly perpetually panic-stricken John Cusack lookalike Jeff Schroeder on rhythm guitar
Who was too important to indulge in banter with the crowd, obviously, although I appreciated his wry, puzzled smirk to the Mini-Moshers in front of me actually alternating between trying to create a pit/clap along to prog rock. Yes. Prog rock.
He occasionally lifted his arms like Jesus though to elicit a few whoops and cheers with varying degrees of success. More than what the other band members did, who seemed too terrified (being in the presence of our saviour and all) to move from their spots. There are probably clauses in their contracts warning against doing as much.
My gig buddy visibly cringed when the crowd failed to sing along when Corgan coaxed them to do so to the new material. And remarked “oh, they’ve brought their own applause!” when the weird thunderbolts and lightning (very very frightening) sound effects were aired between songs. Causing me to near collapse in paroxysms of laughter. This is when I wasn’t being blinded by the pyrotechnics. Perhaps they were tired of the spotlight being on them all the time, they have been in the business for 23 years after all.
(Wow. I suddenly feel old).
Personally, I though the new material sounded excellent, although I would’ve preferred to hear less of it. It was their second night at Brixton, so maybe those present the day before got to hear more of the Golden Oldies. I wasn't as disappointed as I'd been expecting, after hearing @aforaorta's warnings against seeing favourite bands live following her Sisters of Mercy ordeal, but I can't help but feel I would've appreciated it more if I'd been closer in age to the little tykes in front of me, one of whom I could've quite easily have picked up and stuffed into her backpack after having it knocked into my tits on one occasion too many. So it goes.