Story by Tony BonyataWe all live in a Britney Spears world! We'll just have to get used to it!" protested Billy Corgan during The Smashing Pumpkins sold-out show in Milwaukee's Eagle's Ballroom. His defiant attitude apparently sparked by the Pumpkin's latest album Machina/The Machines of God taking a nose-dive down the charts after an impressive debut at No.3-being trounced by the candy-coated likes of N 'Sync, The Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears. In concert, however, these chart-topping teenyboppers couldn't hold a candle to what The Smashing Pumpkins are unleashing in smaller theaters around the country on their "Sacred and Profane" tour. Coming off some kind of Mephistophelean medieval butcher-with lurching stature, clean-shaven head and cloaked in a long, black skirt with a full-torso black leather apron, Corgan and company tore into a high-octane version of David Essex' 70's chestnut "Rock On" which later morphed into a prehistoric stomp. Corgan's lanky arms seemed to stretch out forever as he flashed out obligatory peace-signs in Ozzy fashion before blurting ou, with tongue firmly in cheek, such stadium-rock cliches as "and the cradle will rock," "long live rock 'n roll," and others, that, delivered by anyone else, would make even Foghat fans cringe. But, instead, Billy gave these banalities new meaning as the band backed up every statement with a pounding certainty.
Photos by Phil Bonyata
With Corgan's potent brand of braying at its peak and former heavy-hitter, Jimmy Chamberlin, back in the mix (who with short platinum-dyed hair and supersized biceps, looked more like a WWF wrestler than a rock drummer), along with guitarist James Iha and ex-Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur, the band seemed, once again, supercharged. Running through over two dozen numbers that heavily promoted their new album, the band blasted into the Neanderthal crunch of "Heavy Metal Machine," which featured a coagulating bass-line from Auf der Maur, and a speed-punk take on "The Everlasting Gaze" before showcasing Corgan's bright talent as Gen X's poet laureate on the pop-glazed "Stand Inside Your Love" and "I of the Morning."
Totally ignoring material from their debut album "Gish", they managed to throw in a handful of old favorites such as the poignant "Mayonnaise" which featured Iha's wonderful guitar squalls, an amphetamine-pumped "Cherub Rock," "1979," "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" and a follow-the-bouncing-body-surfer, singsong version of "Today." never ones to shy away from their '70's rock influences, they offered up a folk-flavored cover of The Who's "Join Together" for their final encore. As live performers, however, it was an over-the-top, ultra heavy jam performed that night, with Auf der Maur and Chamberlin's chugging rhythm that bedded down with Corgan's Valium-laced power chords and colored with Iha's swirling sonic pallette, that best defined not only this band, but the spirit of rock in general.
Long live rock, indeed.
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