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Concert Reviews:
Smashing Pumpkins give plans plenty to "Adore" at Little Caesars Arena
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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DETROIT -- So how is Smashing Pumpkins celebrating its 30th anniversary?

How about with an hour for each decade -- and then some?

The group -- which has reunited founding members Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlin and James Iha for this year's Shiny and Oh So Bright Tour -- trolled the first 12 years of its career on Sunday, Aug. 5, at Little Caesar's Arena with an epic three-hour and 10-minute show, pulling 31 songs from its first six studio albums, digging deep for tracks that have been on the setlist bench for decades. It was long and comprehensive, perhaps to a fault, but you'd be hard-pressed to come up with much you'd prefer to have been left out over the course of the show.

That length certainly had its effect on the Little Caesars crowd; Small to begin with, fans began a steady exodus during the final house of the show -- just as the Pumpkins were starting to get into a steady stream of hits -- and by the time the encore rolled around the remaining faithful could have comfortably fit inside the much smaller Fillmore Detroit just down the street.

But there's no denying that the Pumpkins provided plenty of bang for the (expensive) buck, especially for the real aficionados. Following what proved to be an energetic but superfluous opening set by Metric -- though it gave frontwoman Emily Haines a chance to repeat the band's name so often it felt like we should be taking shots each time -- Corgan began the Pumpkins' portion of the evening alone, playing "Disarm" as childhood photos and home movies rolled by on the video screen. The other five members joined for "Rocket," blasting the show into its lengthy overdrive.

There was a highlight for just about every taste during the night, and length of eye candy as the group performed on a shifting stage set with moving scenery and inventive lighting and video effects, including historic footage during "Rhinoceros." Corgan, who sported several different outlets during the night, performed a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity," the show's lone clunker, on a riser behind Chamberlin's drums, where he returned, this time with a piano, for "To Sheila" and "For Martha."

The theatrics also allowed for what seemed to be some not-so-subtle commentary about original bassist D'Arcy Wretzky, missing from the tour after some acrimonious give-and-take with Corgan earlier this year. Several video sequences featured footage of a Marilyn Monroe-like actress who also bore a resemblance to Wretzky; During the Pumpkins' cover of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" -- which Iha called "a bucket list song" for the band -- images of Corgan and the woman's faces merged together, with his ultimately eclipsing hers.

And a late-show pairing of "Try, Try, Try" and "The Beginning is the End is the Beginning," Corgan is depicted as a spiritual savior for the drug- and booze-addled woman as a lighted statue depicting his character paraded around the arena floor.

The concept was pitched a bit high, however. The show's success was in the song choices and performances -- and in a stellar sound mix that clearly defined the triple guitar blend between Corgan, who played most of the solos, Iha and longtime member Jeff Schroeder. the Pumpkins did deliver the hits -- "Drown," "Zero," "Tonight, Tonight," "Cherub Rock," "1979," "Today," Bullet With Butterfly Wings" -- but the night's real delights were less celebrated fare such as "The Everlasting Gaze," "Stand Insider Your Love," "Thirty Three," "Eye," "Soma" and "Muzzle." And long jams through "Mayonaise," "Porcelina of the Vast Oceans" and "Hummer" were well-rendered indulgences that reminded ups the Pumpkins have always been as much about pomp as punk.

Iha, returned after an 18-year absence, did most of the talking, while Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath, posing as a carnival barker on the video screen, made a couple of oddball song introductions. Corgan did speak at the end, congratulating Detroit on its turnaround and noting that, "I love this city. I appreciate this city very much. Some of our greatest shows we ever had back in the day were in this f***ing city, 'cause this city rocks f***ing hard." The Pumpkins even teased Kiss' "Detroit Rock City" a couple of times during the show, and even though the group didn't wind up actually play it, it did give the city a long and heartfelt rocking on Sunday.



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