The Smashing Pumpkins

support Beware Of Darkness
author PP date 31/07/13 venue Falconer Salen, Copenhagen, DEN

It's Wednesday night and tickets are priced at a hefty 380 DKK a piece for the return of Smashing Pumpkins to Denmark for the third time in six years if I recall correctly, both factors for why Falconer Salen is only a little over half full at best throughout the evening. With that comes a higher average age as well; most people are well into their thirties, looking to catch their favorite 90s alternative rockers one more time before they will presumably break up, if Billy Corgan's recent statements are anything to go by.

Beware Of Darkness

Beware Of Darkness

Along with them, the band have brought along the up-and-coming experimental rockers Beware Of Darkness. Their expression takes 90s style alternative rock and expands upon that formula with plenty of experimentation, layers, feedback, jamming, and noisy guitar solos. The hall is almost pitch-black dark at this point with dark red and purple light setup pointed straight at the crowd, which does the band no favours as it's difficult to see what's actually happening on stage. There are embarrassingly few people present to start out with, and so their set is plagued with terrible echo throughout the set, making it difficult to make out the blues, retro rock, and other elements the band adds to their expression throughout. There are moments where their experimentation has a similar vibe as Incubus on "A Crow Left Of The Murder", not necessarily sound wise, but in terms of the feeling you get from what Beware Of Darkness are trying to do with their instruments. Their vocalist's high pitch wails make him sound like a girl, but it's oddly fitting on top of the crazy guitar feedback and instrumental jamming that we go through many times during their set. The last song features Smashing Pumpkins guitarist Jeff for a more grungy take on their sound, complete with insane soloing that's layered on top of the already experimental sound. Shame about the sound, this could've been pretty good.

The Smashing Pumpkins - angry

The Smashing Pumpkins

For the price of 380 DKK, you'd normally expect quite a bit of production on stage and a lengthy set to justify the high ticket prices (and the ridiculous prices on what are barely 0.4L beers at Falconer Salen). For Smashing Pumpkins, not even a banner or a logo is to be seen behind them, with minimal light show accompanying their set. There's definitely no extravaganza to their show, other than the constant and sublime solos fired by both Jeff and Billy throughout the show. For two and a half hours, the Pumpkins take us through 23 songs with heavy focus on their new album "Oceania", which also marks the opening of their set with first two tracks "Quasar" and "Panopticon" played straight away. The sound is much improved from the support - probably because the venue is now a little over half full - but yet after four or five songs I'm wondering: "is this really it?". The band look like any other rock band on stage rocking out by their mics. Of course, Corgan's vocals are great, but the crowd reaction tot eh band is mild to say the least. There are isolated incidents of small sing alongs to the mid 90s stuff, but the cheering isn't that loud, and it's starting to feel like the crowd is falling asleep to the long solos, new tracks, and relatively unpopular setlist choices from the 90s material.

That is, until Corgan finally decides to communicate slightly with the audience after an hour of playing song after song. "Hope you're enjoying the concert so far...", to which the crowd responds with a rather mediocre cheer. "That doesn't sound too enthusiastic", Corgan says, before telling us that he has a very ironic sense of humour. We're told about how in Denmark it's possible to die to an angry, tall blonde woman biking over you, a direct reference to the cycling culture over here which can seem crazy to foreigners sometimes. He then turns to their female bassist "I'd happily let you bike over me, you look beautiful tonight". For the next five minutes we get some insight into what Corgan really means when he calls his humour ironic, and we are told lighthearted stories and jokes, which is exactly what we needed to wake up from the lull we've been in for the better part of 45 minutes now.

And here's where the hit parade starts to shape up. "Ava Adore", "Bullet With Butterfly Wings", and many others are aired that are considered classics within the rock genre, with especially the latter one receiving the first genuinely big sing along 90 minutes into their set. But we have to remember that we've been standing here for an hour and a half watching and listening to Corgan & co play through songs which are good in the studio, but don't seem to do much for the audience tonight. People are standing still, cheering is moderate, and the vibe in the hall is more something I'd associate with a letdown than the euphoric sing along fest many came in here expecting. The band is static on stage, there's no video or crazy light show to make up for their lack of movement. Result? At two hours I feel like the concert has lasted forever. The extra 30 minutes they throw in after that? Almost unbearable. There's simply way too long between each good hit or a memorable song and the rest of the decent tracks. People leave the show tonight if not disappointed, then at least not with a particularly satisfied feeling, this scribe included.

Setlist:

  • 1. Quasar
  • 2. Panopticon
  • 3. Space Oddity
  • 4. X.Y.U.
  • 5. Disarm
  • 6. Tonite Reprise
  • 7. Tonight, Tonight
  • 8. Cherub Rock
  • 9. Gossamer
  • 10. Pinwheels
  • 11. Oceania
  • 12. If There Is a God
  • 13. Thirty-Three
  • 14. Ava Adore
  • 15. Bullet with Butterfly Wings
  • 16. One Diamond, One Heart
  • 17. Pale Horse
  • 18. Today
  • 19. Zero
  • 20. Stand Inside Your Love
  • 21. United States
  • --Encore:--
  • 22. The Celestials (acoustic)
  • 23. Porcelina of the Vast Oceans

Photos by: Philip B. Hansen

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