Smashing Pumpkins in The Netherlands: Tight and Balanced

Article by Jeroen Bakker
Pictures by Jeroen Savelkouls and Arthur van Pelt

01. Tilburg 013 poster

(Poster Tilburg 013)

Date: July 26th, 2013
Venue: Paradiso
Capacity: 1,200-1,500 (sold out)
City & Country: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Tour: Shamrocks and Shenanigans 2013 Tour
Personnel: Billy Corgan, Jeff Schroeder, Nicole Fiorentino and Mike Byrne
Duration: 2h30m

Date: July 27th, 2013
Venue: 013
Capacity: 2,000-2,200 (sold out)
City & Country: Tilburg, the Netherlands
Tour: Shamrocks and Shenanigans 2013 Tour
Personnel: Billy Corgan, Jeff Schroeder, Nicole Fiorentino and Mike Byrne
Duration: 2h15m


‘She likes surprises,’ Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell sings on their hit album Superunknown. Well, I do not know who ‘she’ is, but I do know that I like surprises too. That’s why I was so happy to read that Billy promised us some unexpected things on their Shamrocks and Shenanigans tour. What would the band have in store for The Netherlands?

02. Billy Amsterdam Paradiso


It was almost two years ago that the Smashing Pumpkins hit The Netherlands during one of their tours. They then almost sold out the huge Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam, where they treated the die-hard fans to a lot of obscure tracks and b-sides. Very enjoyable for the fans that own every single version of Zeitgeist, but in a big venue like the HMH, there are a lot of casual fans just looking for some 90’s super hits.

Those fans would have been very happy with the songs Billy, Nicole, Mike and Jeff threw into the audience at the beautiful Paradiso, Amsterdam (in the old days it was used as a church!) and the recently restored and modernized 013, Tilburg venues. Where Corgan refused to play a ‘greatest hits show’ in 2011, the nights at these places were packed with alternative rock classics; “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”, “Today”, “Zero”, “Ava Adore”, “Rocket”, “X.Y.U.” and “Tonight, Tonight”, just to name a few. But Smashing Pumpkins never aimed to be a nostalgia act. There was a lot of room for more recent material too. A hard rocking version of “Starz” was definitely a highlight, but also the Oceania album tracks were greeted with much enthusiasm from the crowd. An acoustic rendition of “The Celestials” even had people singing along to this tune. A great and well deserved compliment for the ‘new’ band.

Billy the Gardener
About halfway into the set at Paradiso, Amsterdam, Billy started to chat with the audience, exclaiming that he was getting ‘as they say in America, long in the tooth. That’s called old.’ He laughed about stopping to tour and focus on gardening. People laughed, but after Billy said that he wasn’t joking, some crowd members clearly felt a bit uncomfortable. Is he really planning on quitting rock ‘n’ roll style touring?

The banter was quickly forgotten when Billy was invited to eat Dutch pancakes with a girl in the audience, so Corgan could only reach for his Mellotron to roll into one of the highlights of the night. ‘If there is a God, I know he likes to rock…’. The die-hard fans in the audience couldn’t believe their ears. “If There Is A God” hadn’t been played live for over 12 years! Yet here we are, listening to Billy and Nicole singing without a doubt one of the best songs off the (so far) internet-only album Machina II / Friends And Enemies Of Modern Music. The cheering from the crowd spoke for itself: this really was a surprise, just as Billy had promised. And a very pleasant surprise indeed.

Stadium settings in Amsterdam
At Paradiso, Amsterdam, the band continued to rock through some monumental hits before treating the audience to another track not played in a long time: “The Imploding Voice” from 2000 record Machina / The Machines of God. At this point, the bad thing about the concert really started to show; the sound was way too loud and mixed in an unbalanced way. It was almost like the sound engineer used the settings for a stadium! Because I was in the front row, I had a lot of direct sound coming from the band’s amps and monitors. The voice amplifiers were behind me, so the vocals got drowned in the mix more than once. After the show I heard (as far as I was still able to hear) that the sound wasn’t that good on the balcony either, so it wasn’t just because I stood completely in front of the stage. The people at the mixing desk obviously had an off night, as it would appear.

03. Amsterdam Paradiso

The Pumpkins can’t be blamed for this though, because they gave all they could. Jeff showed once again that he knows his guitar’s neck even better than the back of his hand.  Nicole stole the hearts of many with her sweet backing vocals and rocking bass skills.  Mike hit his toms and cymbals like they had to be destroyed at the end of the show, and Billy did justice to the print on his t-shirt: ‘Je suis un rockstar’. The band was really tight and professional, never missing a beat.

After spoiling us with two encores at Paradiso, Amsterdam, which included pumping versions of “Immigrant Song” and “Cherub Rock”, the band left the stage for the last time, leaving behind an extremely satisfied crowd. The sound problems were the only thing that kept this awesome show in Amsterdam from being really, really awesome. And we are not alone with our very positive review: Dutch music magazine Oor (Ear) created a raving review too on this Amsterdam show, to be found here (warning: Dutch language, but beautiful pics!).

Another show and a second SPfreaks meet-up in Tilburg
Luckily, for the band and the fans alike, the band got another chance one day later. With buzzing ears, sore throats and tired legs from the night before, we headed down south in The Netherlands to the city of Tilburg for another night of fuzzy rock and oceanic tones. This night was not only a Smashing Pumpkins show, but also another SPfreaks members meeting. Quite a few SPfreakies showed up again, one even driving all the way from Germany to see the band play! It was cool to get together to see our favorite band for another time.

04. Tilburg 013
The summer heat outside had found its way into the venue. The audience was hot before a single note was played, so warm-up act Beware of Darkness didn’t have to do much. During their opening act, we did notice the sound was a lot better than in Paradiso, even in the front row. Nice! Now we could finally hear the band sing properly!

The Pumpkins cranked out almost all the songs they played the night before, but they changed the order up a bit. Due to time constraints, a few songs like “Immigrant Song” were skipped. And starting with “Tonite Reprise” leading into “Tonight, Tonight” was a smart move. What a way to open a show!

The improvement in sound was clearly noticeable, which made the show even more enjoyable. However, it was noticeable the audience was a little more stiff than in Amsterdam. It was plain to see that a somewhat bigger venue brings a wider and more critical crowd. However, all time classics such as “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “Zero” got even the most difficult visitor to jump.

Billy didn’t say anything about last night’s banter anymore, so I think we can conclude that he was joking when he said they wouldn’t be touring anymore. And walking back to the train station with rain falling down and lightning illuminating the sky, I realized we should hope they were joking. The Smashing Pumpkins showed once again that they are so much more than a revived 90’s band. This band is still moving forward. Sometimes stumbling, sometimes incomprehensible, but always fascinating. I don’t know where the band is headed to next, but I do know I’ll be glad to follow them wherever they go.

05. Tilburg 013

Setlist Paradiso Amsterdam

Quasar
Panopticon
Starz
Rocket
Space Oddity [David Bowie]
X.Y.U.
Disarm
Tonite Reprise
Tonight, Tonight
Pinwheels
Oceania
If There Is A God
Thirty-Three
Ava Adore
Bullet With Butterfly Wings
The Imploding Voice
One Diamond, One Heart
Pale Horse
Zero
Today
Stand Inside Your Love
United States

Encore 1:
The Celestials (acoustic)
Porcelina of the Vast Oceans

Encore 2:
Immigrant Song [Led Zeppelin]
Cherub Rock
(1979 was on the setlist for this encore, but was not played)

Setlist 013 Tilburg

Tonite Reprise
Tonight, Tonight
Cherub Rock
Starz
Space Oddity [David Bowie]
X.Y.U.
Disarm
Quasar
Pale Horse
Ava Adore
Bullet With Butterfly Wings
The Imploding Voice
Pinwheels
Oceania
If There Is A God
Thirty-Three
One Diamond, One Heart
Today
Zero
Stand Inside Your Love
United States

Encore:
The Celestials (acoustic)
Porcelina of the Vast Oceans

Pumpkins of the Past – James Iha

Article by Shaharaine P. Abdullah

The last former band member of Smashing Pumpkins in this series: James Iha
(birthdate: March 26, 1968)

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James Yoshinobu Iha is an American musician best known as the original guitarist and co-founder of The Smashing Pumpkins.

Pre-Pumpkins

James was born in Chicago, Illinois in a second-generation Japanese-American family. He and his brothers were raised in a middle-class suburb in Elk Grove Village; James attended Elk Grove High School.

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I was born in a suburb of Chicago. You know those John Hughes movies like ‘Sixteen Candles’ and ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ and stuff like that? My high school was sort of like one of those high schools. It wasn’t as much fun as those movies were though [laughs]. I grew up there and it was a very nice middle class suburb, really boring but nice. I was a fan of music cause my brother was a big fan of music and I used to look at his records and he had all the classic rock records. I sort of went through every different phase of music. He was into like Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, The Who and I got into all those. Then I got into my own things, like heavy metal. Then I got into New Wave, which became a lifelong journey into music [laughs]” – James Iha on his formative years.

Growing up, James describes his childhood and home life:

“I was cool [laughs], I guess. I think I was a quiet kid and music was definitely an exciting thing to me. Music and film…my mom used to play like a nylon string guitar and she would play sort of like children’s lullabies. That was really nice but it was definitely rock music that got me excited and wanting to do something similar.”

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After high school, James took classes at a local junior college for 2 years and majored in Graphic Design at Loyola University Chicago before eventually dropping out in order to fully commit himself to The Smashing Pumpkins in 1987.

Pumpkins Period

In 1987, James was a guitarist for the Chicago band Snake Train when he met Billy Corgan through a mutual friend. At the time, Billy Corgan was already spreading the word around that he was in a band called The Smashing Pumpkins and decided to make it official with himself at the helm as the vocalist, James as the guitarist and support from a drum machine. The duo met D’arcy Wretzky later on and made her the bassist, while Jimmy Chamberlin was made drummer.

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D’arcy and James became romantically involved from 1988 until 1991, when they eventually split before a scheduled performance at the Reading Festival in 1992 during the band’s Gish tour. After a brief strain between them, the two remained friends and continued to be involved professionally, with The Smashing Pumpkins and other musical projects, including the now-defunct independent label Scratchie Records.

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James is the credited guitarist for all Smashing Pumpkins albums, until the Zeitgeist period. He wrote and provided vocals on a number of Smashing Pumpkins songs, such as ‘Blew Away’, ‘Bugg Superstar’, ‘Take Me Down’, ‘…Said Sadly’, ‘Believe’, ‘The Boy’, ‘The Bells’, ‘Summer and ‘Go’, and co-wrote ‘I Am One’, ‘Soma’, ‘Mayonaise’, ‘Plume’ and ‘Farewell and Goodnight’. He also sang the band’s covers of The Cure’s ‘A Night Like This’ and Syd Barrett’s ‘Terrapin’. During this time, James also collaborated with other bands, appearing on recordings of bands like Ivy and The Sounds, as well as released his first solo album ‘Let It Come Down’ with a music video for ‘Be Strong Now’.

In 2000, Corgan announced that The Smashing Pumpkins would be disbanding and playing their final show at The Metro in Chicago, where the band played their first ever gig as a four-piece in 1988. On December 2, 2000, the band played a 4-hour-long set comprised of 36 songs to an audience of 1,100 or so. Made up of family, friends and fans, some of whom travelled hundreds of miles just to be in attendance. At one point during the emotionally charged show, it was reported that James (in memory of the relationship that he and D’arcy had shared and maintained over the years), lamented her absence and expressed his gratitude and love for her. After the show, according to Corgan, James left the venue without saying goodbye to me or Jimmy, a real final fuck you in my eyes… outside of a phone conversation about business in 2001, I haven’t seen him since.

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When Corgan decided to revive The Smashing Pumpkins in 2005, only he and Chamberlin were retained from the original line-up, despite Corgan’s insistence at the time that the door was always open for the others to return. Reasons why James and D’arcy didn’t re-join are unclear, but James has commented about the matter in later interviews, saying I was never approached by the band or Billy about returning to the band. That never happened.”

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Post-Pumpkins

James has pursued a myriad of projects since departing the Pumpkins in 2000. He has collaborated with, remixed and produced a number of records for other bands and artists, including Ivy, Fountains of Wayne, Team Sleep, Cat Power, Karen Elson, Michael Stipe, Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino, Chris Martin, Annie, Chara, Isobel Campbell, Whiskeytown, The Blank Theory, The Sounds and Ladytron. James has also joined a number of bands as guitarist, such as A Perfect Circle, Tinted Windows and Vanessa and the O’s while doing stints as a DJ during A Perfect Circle’s hiatus in 2004. He has also scored the Japanese movie ‘Linda, Linda, Linda’ and produced a cover of Bobby Darin’s ‘Splish Splash’ for the soundtrack of ‘Because of Winn-Dixie’ and collaborated with longtime friend and manager Isao Izutsu by starting a clothing label called Vaporized (formerly known as Vapor).

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James is currently promoting his second solo album Look To The Sky, which was released in March 2013.

Trivia

– is near-sighted and sometimes wears glasses

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– Designed shirts and runway modeled for designer Anna Sui.

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(James Iha, photographer Steven Meisel & fashion designer Anna Sui)

– Under the flagship Beams, James owns a Japan-only men’s clothesline named ‘Vaporized’ (formerly called ‘Vapor’).

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(James Iha walking on the runway)

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Iha
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0407286/
http://www.glidemagazine.com/articles/58867/james-iha.html
http://www.gettyimages.co.jp/detail/ニュース写真/james-iha-of-smashing-pumpkins-models-anna-sui-fashions-during-ニュース写真/113898989
http://jamesiha.chu.jp/jamesiha/vapor1/vapor18.html
http://www.virtualjapan.com/wiki/Vaporize
http://consequenceofsound.net/2012/09/interview-james-iha/
http://www.antiquiet.com/news/2010/12/billy-corgan-final-smashing-pumpkins-show-metro/
http://hipstersunited.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/corgan-calls-iha-one-of-the-worst-human-beings-ive-ever-met/

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