Concert Review: The Smashing Pumpkins at Thalia Hall in Chicago, IL – Nov. 26, 2014

Photography courtesy Joe Stadele for TWTHS, published 11/30/2014.

Chicago-based fans of The Smashing Pumpkins had a lot to give thanks for this Thanksgiving; particularly those lucky to score ticket to the bands’ surprise hometown performance on November 26th.Smashing Pumpkins - Chicago 2014 ©JoeStadelePhotography (5) A handful of gigs in support of their new album, Monuments To An Elegy, had been announced.  With Corgan’s guitarist/counterpart Jeff Schroeder in tow, one-of-a-kind performances featuring an all-star lineup [including  Mark Stoermer (The Killers) on bass and Brad Wilk (Rage Against The Machine) on drums] were teased, but a Chicago date was only alluded too.  The Monday morning announcement was met with high demand as fans gobbled every last ticket to the 840-capacity Thalia Hall in just one minute upon release.

“Here’s another song from (our) new album [Monuments to an Elegy].  I know you are all pre-purchasing at the moment, so I’ll wait until you press SEND.  This is called Drum and Fife.” ~ Billy Corgan

Never one to musically dwell on the past, it was a sure bet Corgan would road test much of Monuments To An Elegy. The all-star lineup came out a blazing, sprinkling five of MTAE’s nine tracks in just the first half of the set.  Noticeably, the new songs had a sense of confidence and immediacy behind them.  Brad Wilk’s crashing cymbals kicked off the guitar blazing “One and All (We Are).” The gentle keys and building drums of “Being Beige” served as a softer counterpart.  “Tiberius” and “Drum + Fife” were bombastic and self-assured.  By the end of “Monuments,” a song which had never been heard publicly, members of the audience could be seen singing along to the phrase, “Lover, you’re strange….to me.”

Smashing Pumpkins - Chicago 2014 ©JoeStadelePhotography (14)While the hardcore audience was excited to hear the new songs, nothing could dismiss the smiles and excitement which washed across Thalia Hall when Stoermer broke into the opening bassline of “Hummer” – a song rarely played since the reformation in 2005.  “Tonight, Tonight,” “Disarm,” “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “Zero” captured their standard fanfare.  The most pleasant surprises were reserved for catalog classics like the gorgeous “Stand Inside Your Love,” the Singles-anthem “Drown,” and the epic “Glass And The Ghost Children.”  In classic “Silverfuck” fashion, the song but a reflection of its Siamese Dream template.  The shape-shifter transitioned from splashing cymbals with nuanced drumming and meandering psychedelic guitar to progressive blues to chugging 80’s heavy metal to Corgan repeatedly screaming, “Bang, bang your dead, hole in your head;” then back to the prog jam metal.  Continuing in the tradition started on the Oceania Tour, The Smashing Pumpkins covered yet another David Bowie classic, “Fame.”  In fact, the Bowie sound wasn’t isolated to the cover as hints of “Space Oddity” could be heard in the night’s closer, “Burnt Orange Black” – a song tentatively set to be included on The Smashing Pumpkins’ 2015 release, Day For Night.

Corgan was visibly happy with the reception of the new songs – and perhaps the touring lineup.  While taking a moment to plug the new album, Corgan acknowledged the contributions of Tommy Lee (Mötley Crüe) on drums, but for all intensive purposes, Brad Wilk was a powerful addition to the live band, injecting a swing and versatility into the drumming unheard since the departure of Jimmy Chamberlin.  Stoermer was proficient on bass though remained primarily in the shadows — admittedly, the presence of bassist Nicole Fiorentino was missed. Regardless of the (live or studio) personnel, Corgan has remained The Smashing Pumpkins remaining constant

“No, no, no…you don’t want me to talk.  That’s when bad things happen.  It’s like, what’s that show, When Animals Attack, it’s like, When Billy Talks…bad things happen.  I leave that up to the professionals.  Are you having a good time?” ~ Billy Corgan

Smashing Pumpkins - Chicago 2014 ©JoeStadelePhotography (4)A few interesting tidbits of the night.

  • “Ava Adore” was listed on the setlist, prior to the show closing “Burnt Orange Black,” but cut from the show.
  • Speaking with staff of Thalia Hall, an employee mentioned the show was shrouded in complete secrecy.  Staff were aware of a big announcement, but were not informed ahead of the public announcement.
  • Security revealed the late start time of 9pm (advertised to begin at 8pm) was due, in part, to The Smashing Pumpkins efforts to secure an opening act — which fell through in the days leading into the show.
  • By the powers of social media, the inter-webs went a-buzzing after a photo of the bands limited edition t-shirt was shared with SP fans via Facebook.  Limited to only 30 t-shirts, the design featured Corgan’s cats wearing bowties, concisely stating Fuck You Anderson Cooper.  It seems as though the SP classic, “Fuck You (An Ode To Noone)” finally found it’s someone.

The Smashing Pumpkins’ Monument To An Elegy is out December 9th.  Preorder the album now through the following outlets:
PledgeMusic | Amazon | iTunes

One and All (We Are)
Being Beige
Tonight, Tonight
Drum + Fife
Glass and the Ghostchildren
Stand Inside Your Love
Bullet With Butterfly Wings
Fame (David Bowie cover)
Burnt Orange Black


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