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

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Timid Steps in Charming Harmonious Balance

Review of James Iha (live 06 December 2012, Bitterzoet, Amsterdam) by Sven Schlijper
Also published in Dutch on KindaMuzik.net, translation to English by Vaughn Bayley
Additional live show photos by Jeroen Savelkouls

James Iha 01

As the guitarist for The Smashing Pumpkins, James Iha took his place on the stages of the largest concert halls and festivals in the world.  Following the break-up of the Chicago band in the year 2000, the guitarist returned to the public eye with A Perfect Circle, and lent his string-strumming skills and composition talents to the likes of Vanessa and the O’s and Tinted Windows.  It may now be fourteen years after his solo debut Let It Come Down, but the follow-up, Look to the Sky, has finally landed.  The album brings Iha to Europe for four concerts, among them, a performance at the Amsterdam Bitterzoet.

Iha does not have so much experience gracing the stage alone; this year, he will perform about twenty of them.  In the limited time available at these performances, the singer-songwriter does his best to entertain the audience with droll anecdotes, demonstrating that he has a clear sense of humour: often, he is the butt of his own jokes.  With a giggle from the crowd and a concert halls complete with tables and chairs, Iha knows exactly how to create a cosy atmosphere and where to land his softer numbers.

James_Iha_Bitterzoet_20121206_(1)

As if singing to himself, Iha opens the performance at the Bitterzoet with the single ‘Be Strong Now’.  A little more courage and bravado could certainly not have done any harm; as if apprehensive that the microphone would devour his vocal chords, Iha whispers his lyrics.  After a choice selection of recent material that still reflects the soft, romantic focus of his debut, the audience jump to their feet for nothing more than a cover (‘Dancing Barefoot’ by Patty Smith) that Iha sings with relish.

Iha’s songs lean heavily on sweet melodies and rippling rhythms; furious explosions of power chords are nowhere to be seen.  The fragile figure makes it clear that he was responsible for the typically ingenious harmonious intertwining and the often surprisingly recalcitrant elements synonymous with The Smashing Pumpkins and concerts with A Perfect Circle.  If you need to put James Iha in a nutshell, this is what you include.

James_Iha_Bitterzoet_20121206_(2)

Expanding in public view is never easy for anyone, but a concert is anything but torture for James Iha.  The longer he surrounds himself with his own songs, the more he feels at home and trusts himself; The Smashing Pumpkins number ‘Mayonaise’, which Iha co-authored, is given a glowing rendition.  Paying homage to David Bowie in the form of his ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll with Me’, Iha and his two band-mates loosen the reigns a little.  By way of a closing statement, Iha makes it clear that as he sees it, rock does not reach its zenith with shock and awe, but by putting harmonious charm in the front line.

James_Iha_Bitterzoet_20121206_(3)

Smashing Taiwan, report from Taipei

Update by Arthur van Pelt
Sourced by Now News (Shi-Jie Lin), China Times, CTS, The Liberty Times & Apple Daily
Additional translations, material & photo by Ed & Geng Hao

Our long time friend and contributor of SPfreaks.com Ed reports, in his unique English style, from Taiwan, where Smashing Pumpkins kicked off the Twinkle Rock Festival last night in Taipei at the Taipei World Trade Center (Hall 2).


‘2012 Twinkle Rock Festival’ running from 10th started by The Smashing Pumpkins to kick off the 2012 show, members including lead singer Billy Corgan, drummer Michael William Byrne, bassist Nicole Fiorentino, and guitarist Jeff Schroeder. They not only got numerous awards such as Grammy, their albums hit breakthrough astonishing sales record of 30 million globally.
 
Chicago band Smashing Pumpkins was extremely popular back in ’90s, recently they launched a new album and world tour also, they had a concert in Taiwan last night for the first time.
 
It seems the group members had done homework about attractions of Taiwan before they came, right after their arrival on 9th, they immediately asked to go to Shihlin Night Market, some fans followed the group all the way asking autograph, the group members done whatever fans asked happily.
 
In the night market, the four members had a happy time nibbling lots of Taiwanese snacks including ‘wonton noodles’ and dumplings. Billy enjoyed a variety of ‘Jianbao’, he took pics right after he found ‘stinky tofu’, he posted to Twitter immediately and said it’s so delicious. Michael was willing to try to eat ‘pig’s blood cake’, ‘pie enfolding small pancake’, ‘pearl milk tea’, sausages and other snacks, and also diligent in shopping and spent all NT$ he had.


Before the concert, Nicole went to ‘Longshan Temple’ to worship, in addition to experience Taiwanese style, and also prayed for the concert to be successfully.
 
Last night concert, lead singer Billy Corgan no longer go the dark route, he led the three young members to re-light power of life, mixed with new album tracks and familiar old songs that led fans to return to the golden age of 90s music, just  like a enthusiastic rock feast and it brought great joy to the audience.
 
The group performed a total of 22 songs (or 21?). Billy’s special voice remains the same with opening ‘Zero’, after 2nd song “Bullet…”, he pointed to the audience and forced to split, this caused wholehearted screams everywhere. The 3rd song “Today” is their classic that led the fans through time tunnel back to ’90s. After 4th song “Luna” finished, Billy said ‘thank you’. When the prelude of ‘1979’ appeared, the whole audience were caught in madness again, the superb performance shook & turned the scene, all fans got totally high. If memory is well, they did not perform Stand Inside Your Love but it was on the setlist.
 
The group will leave and fly to next stop South Korea this noon.
 
Last night the box office was not as expected, only sold 30% (about 2,000 audience), the organizer ‘Very Aspect’ feel discouraged, they worried that if Taiwan concert market continue to slump, the industry no longer willing to bear the risk of performances of foreign artists to come to Taiwan, this no doubt is a great loss to local fans. On a side note I think ‘Very Aspect’ didn’t promote the concert good enough, I didn’t know it either ’til several weeks ago when I saw the promo flyer.

 
By the way, I went to Bob Dylan Taipei concert last Apr., that night later lots of concert video clips were uploaded to YouTube, but soon all were removed by some kind of ‘web cop’ next day morning, same happened to The Eagles/Santana/… Taipei concert clips, so perhaps you guys would like to download these Smashing Pumpkins Taipei clips before they disappear.

No Time To Drown: Billy Corgan Meets Rain-Soaked Manila

Article by guest writer Annie S. Alejo
Photo by Magic Liwanag

Billy Corgan says he grew up around a lot of Filipinos. His fans here, meanwhile, have waited nearly two decades to see him and his band The Smashing Pumpkins in the flesh.

MANILA, Philippines – Billy Corgan could not have come to Manila at a worse time. Twenty years late, by his own sheepish admission, the horrible weather that greeted them here would be a real test to The Smashing Pumpkins front man’s resolve, as well as that of his many fans that had waited this long for him to be here.

With torrential rains sucked in by a monsoon on its merry, destructive way to China, large parts of Metro Manila ended up submerged in water on their second day here. After their mid-day press con on Monday, Aug. 6, and with daytime sky as bleak as dusk by Tuesday, Corgan and company spend Day 2 working with the local promoters—and, presumably, with people waiting for them on their next stop—to push the concert back one day.

Corgan would later tweet an announcement moving the concert to Wednesday, Aug. 8, ending his posts with, “SP has the best fans in the world and we didn’t want anyone taking any chances. Manila you are worth the wait to US. Lots of love/be safe.” He spends some of his free time on that dreary day in the mall beside his hotel, tweeting “ZOMBIE MALL” on account of most shops being closed.

It seemed an odd time for rock n’ roll considering the suffering and destruction wrought by this non-typhoon. But it could not have been more rock n’ roll either—a band defiantly putting out a show despite the worst possible weather conditions for fans that are willing to risk it all to spit in the face of chance. Though worth it, the artist and his fans would wait no longer.

An ocean away

The Smashing Pumpkins’ latest album is called “Oceania.” When you call up images on the web, they would reveal the Pacific Ocean and countries like Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and the Philippines, among others. In The Smashing Pumpkins terms, it would only be a part of a massive 44-song undertaking collectively known as “Teargarden by Kaleidyscope.”

“I was going through a difficult time in my life… There was this, a personal sense of alienation in love and in life,” Corgan says about the inspiration for the album.  The sense of separation brought about by modern day trappings would also figure in his thought and writing process. “Here I am in the Philippines, texting people in Thailand, France… I’m connected to friends all over the world, which is incredible, yet we don’t talk on the telephone. There’s this weird kind of, you feel connected but you also feel a little bit more isolated.”

“Oceania” is hailed as Corgan’s return to form. “It’s probably the best-reviewed album I’ve ever had, which is strange because I’ve probably made better albums. It’s weird to make an album that you knew was great, like ‘Siamese Dream,’ and it got a lot of bad reviews at that time; and now it’s considered a classic… It’s been a long time since I’ve had that—probably about 15 years. I’ve had to hear every album how I’m stupid and dumb and I don’t know what I’m doing. So it’s nice to know I’m not stupid and dumb.”

In his most recent shows, including the one in Manila, he and the band would play the entire album instead of pandering to the greatest hits mindset. “Why? ‘Cause you need it. You need ‘Oceania.’ I can see it in your eyes,” he jokes at the press conference.  At the concert, while fans cheered the loudest for older hits like “Today” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” and grew wild for “Tonight Tonight” and “Disarm,” they turned a reverential ear to the newer “Oceania” songs, including two of Corgan’s alternating favorites, “Pale Horse” and the album’s title track.

The future of rock

“I have some of the most difficult and intelligent fans in the world… and I’m lucky sometimes, and sometimes not so lucky in that,” Corgan says. But while he understands the need of long-time fans to hold on to their idea of The Smashing Pumpkins and their music, he notes, “They forget the 16-year-old, the 20-year old… this is their time. ‘Oceania’ is their album, for their time. Now, if they connect with it, great; if they don’t, they don’t. [But] don’t try to always come in and steal that away from the next generation. Because that’s why we’re here, we love our fans… But without the young fans, there is no future to Smashing Pumpkins. We can’t run an oldies business; not only is it boring, it’s actually not a very good business.”

The nasty consequence of the art-as-business paradigm isn’t lost on Corgan, who has always struggled for integrity in the face of shifting musical tastes and endless parade of flavor-of-the-months. “The music industry essentially operates on a dumbing down principle—how dumb do we have to go to sell this record to the most [number] of people. And the more intelligent and articulate it is, you lose a certain degree of audience.”

He adds, “For the most part, the charts are dominated by music that’s essentially… repetitive [in] melody, style, tone, texture, message because it reaches the most [number] of people.”

Thus, his highly conceptual “Teargarden” album made in what he says is the “tradition of music”—in essence, inspiring others and lifting them up to be creators themselves—is his public battle with failure. “I’m willing to fail. Most artists are not willing to fail; they want their failures to happen behind the scenes because they don’t want to be criticized. I’m okay with being criticized because I think that the journey is really valuable. There’s a lot of people out there who get that,” he says. “It’s amazing, if you let people be with you on a deeper journey, they’ll actually figure it out.”

Rock n’ roll and Pinoy values

Aside from his high-regard to music fans in general, Corgan’s own set of values runs deep and curiously parallel to ours.  “I grew up around a lot of Filipinos in the outskirts of Chicago where the family rules,” he shares. “There’s always that uncle or that Grandpa—he knows what the hell is going on, you know? That’s where the real wisdom lies.”

He adds, “You have to listen to that. You can’t dumb your family down. You can’t dumb your community down. You can’t dumb your country down. You can’t dumb your fans down. I think I’m at a point now where I don’t wanna be dumbed down anymore. I just think that’s the worst thing for rock n’ roll.”

Growing up with Filipino friends—“Some of my best friends now are Filipino,” he adds—his visit here may be a long time coming but it holds great meaning to him. “It’s always humbling if you go to a place I already have a respect for the culture.”

He adds, “I’m embarrassed it’s taken that long. It’s nothing that I did. Honestly… this business is always difficult; if somebody doesn’t wanna bring you here or if they wanna pay you five bucks and stick you in a dirty club, you know what I mean? You gotta come the right way; so finally we’re here, under the right circumstances.” Freak weather occurrences notwithstanding.

Although he says The Smashing Pumpkins have “made a lot of people a lot of money by just being weird,” their many years in this fickle business have allowed them to see the shifts in the value system. Where the value of artists is quantified by how many records they sell or if they get on radio or MTV, and where, once, the business loves “alternative” music because it’s made people money, somehow the music—and artists like Corgan—still survives because it matters to the people that listen.

In all the years of being critically panned to being hailed as champions of marketing genres, to simply being laid on the wayside for not being “cool enough” or “alternative enough,” or even not sociable enough, Corgan knows a deeper truth. “What The Smashing Pumpkins means as a band is so much more valuable; what we mean to people is so much more valuable than our commercial value,” he says.

He is right. The band’s Manila fans that braved the rains and floods certainly proved that.  Calling them “old school fans” of The Smashing Pumpkins during the show, their riotous reception could only have come from what Corgan himself always strives for—connecting with people emotionally.

SP Record Club, OCEANIA Album & Tour News

Article written by Arthur van Pelt

The hardcore fans, and also the average fans, will not have missed it: Smashing Pumpkins recently started the Smashing Pumpkins Record Club. Go to SmashingPumpkins.com to find out more. And don’t forget to search for the somewhat “hidden” download for another song, Geek U.S.A. – Suicide Kiss No Vox demo!

Next to that, Billy Corgan just announced a few hours ago on Twitter that the new album is ready. “Oceania is done… I am so proud of this record, and this band”. In the meantime, the band also figured out a rather extensive US and EU tour to try out the new songs of Oceania. The tour is called “The Other Side Of The Kaleidyscope”, and the new songs will be mixed with some Greatest Hits from the past. These are the dates, as published on the tourpage of the website of the band.

USA tour October 2011

2011/10/05 Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles
2011/10/07 Fox Theatre, Oakland
2011/10/08 Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas
2011/10/10 Ogden Theatre, Denver
2011/10/13 The Riverside Theater, Milwaukee
2011/10/14 Riviera Theater, Chicago
2011/10/15 The Fillmore, Detroit
2011/10/17 9:30 Club, Washington
2011/10/18 Terminal 5, New York
2011/10/19 Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, Providence
2011/10/21 Orpheum Theatre, Boston
2011/10/22 Tower Theater, Upper Darby

Europe tour November & December 2011

2011/11/02 Annexet, Stockholm
2011/11/04 Spektrum, Oslo
2011/11/05 The Grey Hall (Freetown Christiania), Copenhagen
2011/11/07 Vorst Nationaal, Vorst (Bruxelles)
2011/11/08 Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam
2011/11/09 Zenith, Paris
2011/11/11 Apollo, Manchester
2011/11/13 O2 Academy, Glasgow
2011/11/14 O2 Academy, Newcastle
2011/11/15 Brixton Academy, London
2011/11/16 Brixton Academy, London
2011/11/18 O2 Academy, Sheffield
2011/11/19 O2 Academy, Birmingham
2011/11/21 Pier 2, Bremen
2011/11/23 Tempodrom, Berlin
2011/11/24 Palladium, Koln
2011/11/25 Stadhalle, Offenbach
2011/11/27 Zenith, Munich
2011/11/28 Mediolanum Forum, Assago
2011/11/29 PalaFabris, Padua
2011/12/01 Gasometer, Vienna
2011/12/02 Komplex, Zurich
2011/12/03 den Atelier, Luxembourg-City
2011/12/06 Sala Razzmatazz, Barcelona
2011/12/07 La Riviera, Madrid
2011/12/08 Campo Pequeno, Lisbon