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Concert Reviews:
Smashing Pumpkins Reunion Rocks The Fox
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

DETROIT -- As Smashing Pumpkins prepared to play their latest single, "That's the Way (My Love Is)," characteristically proud and defiant frontman Billy Corgan told the sold-out crowd Sunday night (Oct. 7) at Detroit's Fox Theatre that "this is NOT a reunion tour...We actually play new songs. We write new material."

And that's certainly something that separates the re-emergence of the Pumpkins, after a six-year hiatus, from other bands that have regrouped this year.

While the likes of the Police, Van Halen and Genesis are comfortable to milk the nostalgia card, Corgan and company have fully reactivated the Pumpkins moniker with a new album, "Zeitgeist," and an overall sense that Sunday's show was part of a continuum rather than a special event -- though the 5,000 loudly exuberant fans at the Fox greeted the two-hour set as such after the group's long absence. But the presence of potent new material -- five of the night's 20 songs came from "Zeitgeist," plus the unreleased show-opener "Superchrist" -- and some deep-digging into the Pumpkins' 10-album catalog insured a clearly current feel.

So did the concert's look, which deliberately obscured the band within a light spectacular that surrounded the Pumpkins with 13 triangular "pods" and a frequently frenetic display of swirls and strobe-like effects. Corgan even played a couple of his guitar solos in near total darkness, delivering a message that the music mattered for than the players.

It was, of course, a different version of the Pumpkins than the one Corgan packed up in 2000. Founding drummer Jimmy Chamberlin -- the only current band member Corgan introduced, referring to him as "my partner" -- remains and throughout Sunday's show reminded fans he's in many ways the band's secret weapon, with playing that was flashy but still powerfully in the pocket. Corgan did give guitarist Jeff Schroeder plenty of room the play, and the two crafted intriguing, layered weaves throughout the show. Ginger Reyes continued a tradition of Pumpkins female bassists (following D'arcy Wretzky and Melissa Auf der Mar) while Lisa Hamilton's keyboards brought extra layers of drone to many of the songs.

Many of the night's highlights came from the more obscure regions of the Pumpkins' song patch. The group expanded "Glass and the Ghost Children" into a jammy, suite-like epic filled with instrumental solos by Corgan, Schroeder and Hamilton. Hamilton and Rays lent sweet harmonies on "To Sheila," while "Set the Ray to Jerry" built from an airy start into a flashy ending while maintaining its melodic integrity. And "Heavy Metal Machine" was a maniacal mess drawn out to reference Emerson Lake & Palmer's "Karn Evil 9" ("Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends..."), Goldfrapp's "Ride a White Horse," Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" and Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll."

"Zeitgeist" songs such as "Doomsday Clock," "Tarantula," "Bring the Light" and a jackhammer rendition of "United States" grew more sonic muscles in the live setting, while older favorites such as "Bullet With Butterfly Wings," "Tonight, Tonight," "Ava Adore" and "Today" also came off as a bit more ferocious. Within the evening's ebb-and-flow, Corgan offered up a solo acoustic rendition of "1979," then had Chamberlin join him for a duo treatment of "Perfect."

It was a convincing statement of a band reclaiming its place after an extended time away. And when Corgan told the crowd that "we ain't going away any time soon," you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who considered that anything but good news.



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