The Smashing Pumpkins At Madison Square Garden, Wednesday, August 1st, 2018, Reviewed
Insulting Billy Corgan is too easy, in film and pictures on LCD screens at Madison Square Garden last night, Billy from infancy to early teens, flashed before you, and there was something heart rending about them. The pumpkin headed, separated at birth Charlie Brown clone, with a winning smile, and a timidity, a born to be bullied visage, made you want to protect him, made you want to stop in the tracks what you knew would happen, what did happen: how in the midst of Seattle grunge he fronted a Chicago outpost and whinged and whinnied a malleable skill, reaching a zenith, where for one brief shining moment in 1995, Billy was what he thought he could be, before dissolving before our eyes.
Somewhere between “1979” and “Solara” the Billy that might have been was dispatched and the Billy that was, Marilyn Manson’s evil twin in breathtakingly inept ego mania, came and never left. I lost interest not when you would assume, not with the death by overdose of Jonathan Melvoin, not even by the painfully inept follow up to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Adore, no, no, no. Not even Celebrity Skin, which is to Live Through This what The Notorious K.I.M. is to Hard Core. It was when he joined David Bowie at MSG in 1997 and his mere presence made “All The Young Dudes” and “The Jean Genie” sound vastly overrated and inflated instead of the sweet kick of like mule they were.
You can hate Billy for his arrogance, for his right wing pandering idiocy, his friendship with Alex Jones, his treatment of the members of his band, and his band itself which he makes up and breaks up at will, and his complete inability to be anything but an arrogant apologist heritage act for Generation Xers in their forties having learnt and changed not a damn thing. On stage last night you could hate him for the way he peered between the curtains and milked the applause for a lifetime. The stage was gorgeous, but Billy in a skirt, was not gorgeous at all: he was less intimidating and more completely, ready to give us three hours of well played, but only occasional worth hearing, golden age Pumpkins… With seven songs from Mellon Collie and seven songs from Siamese Dreams, a little less than half the show is off their best two albums, so you hope maybe they can pull you through the overwhelming three hours opus of through the past with a blowtorch.
They can’t of course, Billy reeks of unearned ego, he doesn’t speak to the audience at all (he let’s James Iha perform the band introductions), he poses, he struts, he performs hands down the very worst version of “Space Oddity” you will ever, ever hear. Staring to the ceiling like patience on a monument, Billy is so over the top that it seems unfair to Bono, Billy has effortlessly laid claim to the most underwhelming blowhard in the business title, selling the ghost of emo yet to come as he rides (I mean, rode, of course) grunge and set his fingerprints only to discover he is the bottom of the barrel… well, maybe Bush are worse.
One part muso guitarist, two parts bad news bear, Billy roams the halls of rock and roll like a creepoid at school, so threatened by life that he is vicious and nasty to any one under him while fellating power people whether Bowie or Trump, because he cowers to everything that can bully him into submission.
People who claim that the art is the artist are stupid, Ezra Pound was a fascist, Heidegger was the Third Reich’s resident philosopher, Leni Riefenstahl was Hitler’s personal film director: now those are really bad guys and I don’t care in as how it effects their art. I don’t stop watching Leni’s iconic visions of athleticism because of who she was directing it for. Art is art. The problem with Billy isn’t that he is an asshole, or that his career is stalled as he approaches his thirtieth anniversary, the problem with Billy is his music is horrendous. With exceptions (“1979,” “33 1/3”, “Tonight Tonight” “Stumbleine” -which Billy doesn’t even play, all off Mellon Collie, and “Disarm” off Siamese Dreams), he sounds horrible, the two sides of his prog by other means don’t fuse. I actually saw the Pumpkins in 1996 and they were terrible, and before, and after, I once got caught in a packed out subway with one of my arms stuck and a BC song on repeat, and it was… I thought I was going to kill somebody. That mix of whine and thick riffs, slow, fast, deep feel nonsense… it drives me to murder or worse.His lyrics are soppy, his poetry unfunctioning, “Disarm” is his most precise self-portrait but, hey, look:
“I used to be a little boy
So old in my shoes
And what I choose is my choice
What’s a boy supposed to do?
The killer in me is the killer in you
I send this smile over to you”
“Zero” rhymes with hero:
“Emptiness is loneliness and loneliness is cleanliness
And cleanliness is godliness, and God is empty just like me”
So God is just like zero hero Billy?
With James and Jimmy Chamberlin back for a partial reunion, Billy played songs from his golden age, but they were long, tedious, pompous. How can someone with such a round head but such a fathead? Was there a time when stuff like “Ava Adore” sounded, well, good? Surely we are being invited to be nostalgic about something, anything, but what is their to ever have missed in Billy’s charmless presence. He is such a bore, such a blowhard, he looks down on us with a sublime lack of self awareness.
I blew off My Bloody Valentine for this, Billy once claimed to have been influenced by them… not nearly enough.