In the best and worse of ways, Smashing Pumpkins are bonafide rockstars. Stage attire such as a shimmery man-skirt is perfectly acceptable and making people shell out $40 for a souvenir t-shirt is understood. On the less forgivable end, despite the posted show time of 7 p.m., Corgan and company didn't take the stage until after 8 because Billy doesn't like playing in the sunlight. On the up side, the Pumpkins delivered an impeccable set of blistering rock for well over two hours.
Bald and towering, the Lurch-like Corgan ripped into “Tarantula” with ferocious riffs and semi-whiny wails, flanked by Jimmy Chamberlin's hammering drums. Pumpkins purists may still wince at the absence of James Iha and D'arcy Wretzky, but their replacements are solid. Bassist (and serious eye candy) Ginger Reyes pounded out “Siva” from 1991's acclaimed “Gish” with absolute perfection, while guitarist Jeff Schroeder wailed on the soon-to-be-released single, “G.L.O.W.” While the new material is impressive, the songs from a time when a little genre called “alternative” was king still rile fans into a frenzy.
Under the full moon, the Charlottesville Pavilion resonated with the recognizable strings and snare of “Tonight, Tonight,” prompting the audience to sing along and throw a few lighters up. Halfway through the set, Corgan jokingly chided the thirty-somethings who came to “hear something old.” “We live in the present,” he said, before launching into a stellar version of “Today” and an enraged “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.”
As the night moved into its second hour, the Pumpkins unleashed a massive sound and hypnotic lightshow. Seemingly intoxicated on his own music, Corgan wavered back and forth as he weaved a psychedelic “Star Spangled Banner” into “United States.” With roundhouse, Townsend-styled guitar strums, the frontman kept the searing energy going with “Heavy Metal Machine” and asked the audience “Are you ready to die for rock and roll?” What he should have asked was, “Are you ready to see the strangest show closer in Smashing Pumpkins history?”
The stage became a cauldron of weird as the lights stirred dizzily between each other and what sounded like the soundtrack to a virgin sacrifice eerily crept to the forefront. Thus began a 15-minute rendition of Pink Floyd's “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.” But that was just the beginning of the Pumpkin's bizarre endgame. With kazoos, an accordion and nary a dramatic stage effect in sight, the band lined up on stage like something out of the Grand Ole Opry and launched into “In The Summertime” by Mungo Jerry. It wouldn't have been entirely unlikely for Billy Corgan to bust out a washboard at this point, but thankfully that didn't happen. Sans apologies for the late start, Billy bid us adieu with a gracious wave. With a show like that, we'll forgive him.