Smashing Pumpkins Prove They Deserve Fan Loyalty at NYC Concert

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Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins performs on stage at KOKO on December 5, 2014 in London, United Kingdom. 

After an eventful week in which he reconciled with old foes Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson, performing with the latter at a tour stop in London, Billy Corgan brought his new-look Smashing Pumpkins to New York City on Monday (Dec. 8) to keep the goodwill going and promote their latest album.

Monuments to an Elegy, the ninth Pumpkins LP, officially drops today, but Corgan and co. spent Monday selling early-bird copies and other tchotchkes at Physical GraffiTea, the East Village teashop housed in the building immortalized on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti. The marketing continued, you might say, last night at Webster Hall, where the alt-rock legends played an intimate show light on surprises but heavy on hits and songs from the new record.

If there was no sign of Courtney or Marilyn or even the slightest bit of controversy, Corgan was at least able to spark a feud with bassist Mark Stoermer’s amplifier, which crapped out early in the set and led to a couple of delays.

“We’ve blown up our bass amp three times already,” Corgan said four songs in. “It must be New York City.”

Corgan was in good spirits, though, and once the rig was fixed, he led the band -- which also features longtime collaborator Jeff Schroeder on guitar and Rage Against the Machine’s Brad Wilk on drums -- into “Tonight, Tonight,” the evening’s first big scream-along moment.

The group has opened each show of this brief album-launch tour with the Monuments tracks “One and All” and “Being Beige." While they're tight and punchy proof of Corgan’s undiminished, unrivaled gift for dropping soul-shaking grunge-pop bombs, they don’t quite have the anthemic thrust of the group’s mid-‘90s hits.

Hence the capacity Webster crowd’s collective raging during “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “Zero” (both from 1995’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness) and impassioned singing during 1993’s “Disarm.” Corgan has spent much of his career crafting sprawling conceptual albums, but it's his knack for distilling complex anger and longing into brief snippets of release -- “the world is a vampire,” “a killer in me is a killer in you” -- that really makes the Pumpkins resonate.

Prior to the excellent new tune “Monuments” -- wherein the “I feel alright tonight” chorus is enough to make you hope and believe Corgan has finally found some peace -- Schroeder made some remark about how the technical glitches had made the evening "an adventure."

“You’ve been in the Pumpkins long enough to know it’s always an adventure,” Corgan said to his bandmate of seven years, appearing slightly bemused, like he did for much of the evening. “Let’s continue the adventure.”

The Pumpkins did so right into the encore, which began with the mid-tempo 1998 burner “Ava Adore” and continued with the unreleased “Burnt Orange-Black,” a big old power ballad that ends with a “November Rain”-style deluge of soaring melodramatic riffage.

Like Axl Rose, author of the aforementioned GNR classic, Corgan is a rock auteur now fronting a brand, not a band. At this stage, though, Pumpkins Inc. still deserves our loyalty.

Setlist:

“One and All (We Are)”

“Being Beige “

“Hummer”

“Tiberius”

“Tonight, Tonight”

“Drum + Fife”

“Glass and the Ghost Children"

“Stand Inside Your Love”

“Monuments”

“Drown”

“Disarm”

“Zero”

“Bullet with Butterfly Wings”

“Fame” (David Bowie cover)

“Silverfuck”

Encore:

“Ava Adore”

“Burnt Orange-Black”