red lights


Billy's tender ode
to Chicago's past

Billy Corgan
Chicago, IL
April 19, 2004

Billy Corgan
Billy Corgan feelin' at home.

Review by Tony Bonyata
Photos by Matt Charmichael

Last night former Smashing Pumpkins / Zwan leader Billy Corgan quietly stepped onto the stage of the Metro amid a roar from the quickly silenced sold-out crowd. It wasn't the fact that this marked Corgan's first official appearance as a solo artist that made this such a special event, but rather that this unique and highly individualized performance signified the first real attempt at leaving the persona he created with The Pumpkins (and continued with Zwan) behind.
Billy Corgan With his trademark shaven head and black attire, Corgan sat down with his acoustic guitar on an oversized red velvet chair amidst a setting that seemed more like his living room than that of a rock stage. But then again, considering that this was the same venue where The Smashing Pumpkins performed their first and last gigs and which also gave birth to his second short-lived band Zwan, this really was, in some strange way, his living room. And with an adoring group of fans - both young and old - hanging on Billy's every breath, it certainly had the warm feeling of a family reunion.
Following a planned theme for the night, Corgan unveiled twelve very personal acoustic sonnets that dealt with his ongoing love affair with his hometown, Chicago. What really made this show unique, however, was that if it had been performed in New York, LA or London it undoubtedly would've fallen on deaf ears by the middle of the set. It wasn't because every song was a fragile, soft-spoken polar opposite of what his former bands were about either (even though The Pumpkins certainly had their share of beautiful acoustic ballads, along with chest-thumping rockers). It was because Corgan was singing songs about a city that only those that grew up within the 312 area code could fully comprehend and feel.
These were tender, intimately performed numbers which dug deep into Chicago's own history. On the playful lullaby "Black Sox" Corgan recalled the 1919 scandal when The Chicago White Sox threw the World Series that year, all the while professing his love for The Cubs. On the introspective number "Bobby Franks," Corgan told the tale of the 1924 kidnapping / murder of a wealthy Hyde Park businessman's 14-year old son. On the haunting number "Riverview," he recalled the once proud Chicago amusement park that was closed down in 1967 - the same year he was born. And going back as far as 1893 the singer / songwriter even unveiled a new song entitled "The World's Fair," which was, in part, inspired by the Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago that same year (The evening's program even featured photographs from this grand Exposition throughout).
There were two numbers performed that may have sounded familiar to some in the audience. That's because the songs "Friends As Lovers" and "El-A-Noy" were previously performed at a handful of live Zwan shows in 2002. In keeping with the local historical flow of the program, Corgan rewrote the latter number from an old 19th Century folk song that documented when settlers first arrived into Chicago.
With an intimate performance that showcased much of his hometown's own past, Billy Corgan gave his local audience a loving first glimspe into the artist's own future.

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