Friday, September 10, 2010

Smashing Pumpkins at the Lobero Theater


Instead of frying in the sun all day at FYFest, I opted for a gorgeous sunny drive up the 101 freeway to stop at the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara to see a stunning performance by the Smashing Pumpkins.

Smashing Pumpkins

The Pumpkins continue to tour in support of their ambitious project Teargarden by Kaleidyscope. While many doubts have been raised by the new line-up, I didn't get a chance to quell those fears when I photographed their scintillating performance at the Viper Room.

From the outset, it was a full on rock show. The storming chords of "Astral Planes" started to shake the old foundation of the Lobero Theater. The elderly ushers at the venue quickly placed their earplugs. I can't remember prior live versions of "Ava Adore" ending so furiously as the band was extremely sharp.

The opening notes of "Drown" made the drive worth it alone as it remains one of my top 5 favorite Smashing Pumpkins. While I was hoping for an extended feedback solo, Billy Corgan decayed the closing notes from "Drown" into the accelerated bombast of "As Rome Burns". Jeff Schroeder and Corgan end the song with fleet fingered harmonizing solos which is something I never saw when James Iha was in the band.

"A Song For A Son" was punctuated with a huge gong hit by drumming phenom Mike Byrne. Byrne looked like the Karate Kid with his headband but it should be noted Byrne has better chops. No traces of electronic drum machines appeared for "Eye" which built slowly until reaching full steam propelled by Byrne's busy drumming. "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" had Billy stop mid song and mockingly goad the audience into singing along stating they didn't know the lyrics.

While I'm used to fifteen minute of guitar dominant versions of "United States", Corgan curtailed his guitar solo in favor of letting Byrne take center stage for a drum solo. It is a gutsy proposition for Byrne to undertake but he managed to pull it off. Slowing the tempo, it was exciting to hear the new mid tempo ballad "My Love Is Winter" which featured a characteristic Corgan guitar solo.

"Perfect" had some extra kick due to Nicole Fiorentino adding some extra bass notes to the groove. Corgan seemed to be enjoying himself on stage complimenting Santa Barbara on their beautiful people, cheap wine and legal weed. This diatribe led into Corgan jokingly telling Byrne that the song "Cherub Rock" kick started the alternative revolution when Byrne was just a youngster.

"Stand Inside Your Love" was excellent but I still would recommend Schroeder uses an ebow for that true to the recording sustain. The Pumpkins closed their main set with a speedy rendition of "Tarantula" with Corgan peeling off another sliding down the fretboard guitar solo. The roughly 650 capacity venue quickly chanted for an encore that had Corgan appear by himself to sing the vocals for "Disarm".

A lot of heads started to bang in unison for the chugging guitars of "Freak". While giving a shout out to the radio station KJEE, Corgan asked if the station played Collective Soul before hilariously teaming up with Schroeder to play the opening notes of Collective Soul's '90s hit "Shine". The screaming octaves of "Zero" closed out the evening as it left no doubt that the Pumpkins are at the top of their game.

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