Back in 2008 or so the game Guitar Hero: World Tour was tearing up households across the country. Around that time I read an interview with Billy Corgan asking how he felt about being an unlockable character in the game and if he intended to play the game; he replied: when you’re already a guitar hero there’s no need to play a game. After last Saturday night, I can say that he wasn’t pulling any strings with that statement. You might recall, Avid Reader, that I spent this past July discussing the Pumpkins and their new album, so when the chance came to see the album played live, I jumped at the opportunity.
The tone of the night was a simple straightforward approach not meant to pull any punches, just deliver a big performance with minimal effects. Yes, there was a giant hanging globe looming over the band that projected images to coincide with the songs and story, but if you took that away the band did all the heavy lifting while the audience had plenty of heavy listening. Taking the stage around 8:25, Billy and his new sidekicks ripped through a solid two-hour set with one break to address the audience before the encore.
Kicking the night off with a full rendition of Oceania you could hear the power of the album translated on stage and how well the band supported each song. Guitarist Jeff Schroeder kept perfect leads and flexed his skills from time to time. Meanwhile, bassist Nicole Florentine, from Ludlow, Massachusetts, chimed in on backing vocals and kept excellent time with throbbing bass lines. The biggest test of the night would be drummer Mike Byrne who exceeded my expectations matching each hit and letting loose from time to time. This was a well-worn group and the showmanship shined through.
With the album completed they launched into a heavy cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” which signified the portion of the show dedicated to classic tunes. The surprise of the evening, besides the cover, was the song “X.Y.U.” which has many points for Billy to stretch his vocal wail and he did not disappoint. There happened to be one song I couldn’t place, because I never bought any of the Teargarden songs, “A Song for a Son”, and Billy proved that he is in fact a guitar hero by shredding for a solid five minutes and trading back and forth with Jeff. This show was a chance to see a band I respected more than idolized as a kid and hearing “Zero”, “Disarm”, “Today” and “Tonight, Tonight” live meant a lot to that inner child. Check the set; was your favorite song played?
Opener Morning Parade put on a solid set of upbeat tunes as people trickled into the arena. They mixed good guitar work with some sampling and great drumbeats proving to be a classy band to have opened a show.
(The Pumpkins appear next on Halloween night at Barclays Arena, Brooklyn; November 2 at Susquehanna Bank Center, Camden, NJ; and November 3 at Patriot Center, Fairfax, VA, all with Morning Parade. Tickets here.)