#BGReviewer: The Smashing Pumpkins

Aug 14, 2018

Before I begin I would like to say thank you so much to Budweiser Gardens & Spectra Venue Management for this opportunity, and for virtually a free night in beautiful downtown London with my lovely wife Monique.  We’ve never won concert tickets before so that in itself was an amazing experience.  We really can’t thank you enough.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

After picking up the tickets at the box office, I quickly searched for a seating chart and ticket prices online.  I discovered that I was holding tickets to the perfect seats for my review.  We were sitting in the lower bowl (Section 111) behind the sound booth which is a great place to review a concert.  Firstly, you are sitting with average concert goers (not the one’s sitting in the front row), who paid for their tickets and getting the exact same experience they are.  Secondly, any seat that is within an earshot of the sound booth always has the best sound in the house.  Consider this the next time you buy tickets to a show and I promise that you won’t be disappointed from a sound quality perspective unless of course you see a terrible band.  Even the best front of house staff can’t save some artists from themselves although they may tell you otherwise. 

Now that the seats are covered, I’d like to touch briefly on tickets prices.  I know, I know…mine were free, but let’s just imagine that they weren’t for a minute.  The cost of the pair of tickets that we had in our possession would have been $290 after service fees and taxes.  I struggle with this as a music fan because I would have trouble shelling out that kind of cash for my favourite band even if I really wanted to see them.  Big arenas shows are becoming unaffordable for a lot of folks and it’s a real problem.  Here is the kicker that music fans don’t want to hear…WE DID IT TO OURSELVES!  You’ve all done it….years of illegally downloading music for free has completely and forever changed the music industry.  Today with music streaming subcribership taking off, the industry has rebounded.  Unfortunately, it will never be what it once was.  Generally, it is the smaller upcoming artists that are hurting the most, but even larger ones like The Smashing Pumpkins feel it too.  A lot of hardworking people need to get paid, and deservedly so.  Roadies, Sound & Lighting Staff, Guitar & Drum Tech’s, Security & Venue Staff, Musicians, Promoters, etc.  Anyway you get it.  There are a lot of tiny slices in this pie.  The point I’m trying to make is that music fans & the shift of music from physical media to the internet has heavily contributed to concert prices.  Unfortunately, now we have to pay the consequence of expensive tickets.  To be clear, I’m advocating for the reasons why costs are higher than in days gone by, rather than criticizing them.  Alas, the show must go on.

And on it went with Metric.  I must admit that we missed their first song which was unfortunate because they were really good.  Throughout their set, dribs and drabs of folks were filtering into Budweiser Gardens distracting the real Metric fans, but let’s be honest this is the price of being the opening band at an arena show.  The openers talents are often under appreciated.  Emily Haines’ vocals although slightly wet on effects (Reverb & Delay) at times were on point.  She sounded excellent and so did the rest of the band.  The guitar tones were great, rhythm section tight, and hiding underneath it all were synthesized pad undertones to create, and complete the band’s full bodied sound.  I do have one “beef” which ties into some of my previous comments.  I’ve never been a fan of hearing instruments that nobody is playing live.  Many of the songs had synthesizers droning away underneath with no one at the helm, begging the question, “Where’s the man behind the curtain?”  In the old school rock and roll days you hired a musician to play the parts that you couldn’t, or you simply didn’t play that part.  However, in Metric’s defense they played every synth part they realistically could, and hiring another musician would create another sliver of a pie slice, thus driving up tickets prices further or perhaps the band’s profit margins down.  That said, they definitely made it work with what they had and overall they’re set sounded great!  The words they left us with that are still in my head were, “Help. I’m alive. My hearts keeps beating like a hammer.”, all in sync with Emily pumping her fist like a beating heart.  Great show Metric! (4 out of 5 stars)

Metric laid the groundwork for the evening creating a buzz in the air.  As they left the stage, fans anxiously and excitedly waited for The Smashing Pumpkins to begin.  Full disclosure…I’m not a huge Pumpkins fan.  I do however, own their album Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness so I’m not a “hater”.  I will try my best to review them as objectively as possible.  To begin, Billy Corgan took the stage alone with an acoustic guitar.  He begin strumming away to the immediately recognizable tune of ‘Disarm’.  Throughout the song pictures of Billy as a child & teenager flashed on the screen in the background as words and doodles appeared to be written on each photo seemingly by a ghost with a magic marker.  One photo in particular revealed X’s drawn over his eyes and then the words, “No Future.  No Past.”  Something about those words in combination with the picture, and the distinctive sound of the bells in that song gave me chills.  I thought, “Hmm…maybe I’m in for a surprise tonight?”  I listen to a lot of music.  Chills don’t come that often anymore.

As our epic three hour journey continued, the Pumpkins did what the they do, and they did it well.  Billy’s vocals were bang on (in both pitch and tone), the guitars sounded as they should, and as usual the rhythm section held things together.  Somewhere during hour two things got a little slow.  We were lulled almost to sleep by a string of slower songs that I’m sure die-hard fans knew well.  At one point Billy appeared behind a piano up high like an organist playing at church on Sunday, except that this church was possessed and the sermon was at midnight.  It was at this point that an angelic tune pierced through the demonic veil in the form of ‘To Sheila’.  The addition of the female background vocals were what made this song so good.  It was like a lullaby that gave me the warm and fuzzies.  Zzzz.  It’s time to wake up! 

And wake up we did with a spot on rendition of ‘Tonight, Tonight’ followed up by a great cover of ‘Stairway to Heaven’.  Nobody can match Led Zeppelin, but they definitely did the song justice and personally I love that song so it was nice bonus.  The band continued to hit us with a barrage of hits after that.  Including, ‘Cherub Rock’, ‘1979’, ‘Ava Adore’ (which has been stuck in my head all day), ‘Bullet with Butterfly Wings’, and more.

There is no question that true Smashing Pumpkins fans left the show thrilled with the performance that they had just witnessed, and the sheer size of the three hour set would have been unreal to the hardcore fans.  Quite honestly, that’s who the band played to as they should have.  From the perspective of a casual fan I want to give the band 3 out of 5 stars, but as an objective reviewer that understands how real Smashing Pumpkins fan felt about the night, I have to say it was better than that! (4 out of 5 stars)

If you liked this review please check out our album reviews at www.noisecho.com.  We also make great playlists.

#BGReviewer: Mike Aitken (@noisecho, www.noisecho.com)   

Photos by: @BillWoodcock 

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