red lights

Back at Square One

Chicago, IL
Jan. 20, 2003

Review and photos by Tony Bonyata

The Rolling Stones may have commanded the highest priced tickets for their two performances at the United Center this week, but the hottest ticket in town undoubtedly belonged to hometown hero Billy Corgan's new band Zwan.
Just a week before their debut album Mary Star Of The Sea hits the stores, Corgan along with fellow Zwan bandmembers, Paz Lenchantin (bass), David Pajo, Matt Sweeney (guitars) and former Smashing Pumpkins alumni Jimmy Chamberlin (drums), lined-up a cozy four-day stint of performances at Chicago's venerable nightclub Metro.
Zwan While Zwan has previously made a few select appearances in the area over the last year, these four sold-out shows at the Metro marked more of a true homecoming for the band on the cusp of their debut release. Those who've done their homework on the history of The Smashing Pumpkins are more than familiar with the Metro; this being the club where they performed their first gig back in 1988, as well as their final one - twelve years later.
So it was no surprise when Corgan, still balder than Kojak on chemo, and clad in a tight fitting black knit shirt with an image of an elephant on it, came out and received a thunderous welcome as if a victorious war hero had just taken his first step through the front door of his home.
In many ways, however, this performance by Corgan proved that, with yet another strong band behind him, it was more than merely a homecoming. It was a rebirth. Not a rebirth of his former band, but of Corgan himself under the auspices of Zwan - a unique, rather scruffy looking quintet not afraid to crawl out from the shadows of Corgan's previous success and show the world that they have both the stamina and musical arsenal to conquer a new crowd every night.
Zwan Mixing things up from their first performance the night before, Zwan ran through over three-quarters of their new album. They showcased not only the sunny pop of "Baby Let's Rock," "Settle Down" and their first single from the album "Honestly," but also unleashed two monstrous, epic numbers "Jesus I" and "Mary Star Of The Sea," that both saw the band tossing aside their more pop-laden tendencies in favor of a ballistic front-line assault of guitars and pummeling percussions.
Ever the prolific songwriter, Corgan also presented the crowd with other new non-album tracks as well. Although the country-flavored "Friends As Lovers" plodded, the slinky, hypnotic rhythm of "Riverview" and the brooding Black Sabbath dirge of "Spilled Milk" (which by the way, was the only song that hinted at his and Jimmy's former band) more than made up for it. Never one to shy away from his '70s influences Corgan and company also tossed in a ballsy version of Alice Cooper's teen-angst anthem "I'm Eighteen" to the delight of a young crowd that, for many, still had a couple of years to go before they could concur with the song's message.
With the pretenses of his former band now far enough behind him, Corgan proved that while the climb to the top the hill that he once owned may be a long struggle, its one that he will more than likely achieve with Zwan - one gig at a time.


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