For me, the Smashing Pumpkins derailed sometime around 2007 when Billy brought the band back together. Well, he brought the name “Smashing Pumpkins” out of the garage and took it out on the road. However, most fans–including me–were rather disappointed at SP v2.0. Instead of bringing out the songs that made the band famous, Billy either played them down or didn’t play them at all.
I remember trying to watch the Pumpkins on Toronto Island a number of years back. It was the band’s first appearance in Toronto in years and given the huge amount of love the city had given the Pumpkins over the years, the fans were clamouring for the hits. “I Am One.” “Cherub Rock.” “Rocket.” “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.” That whole deep, wonderful catalogue.
Nope. Billy insisted on started the show with a long string of new unfamiliar songs. People were so bored and repulsed that the crowd couldn’t get out there fast tonight. Some didn’t even for the ferry. They swam to shore.
I can understand Billy’s defiance to a point. Artists want to continually create art. Their new material is every bit as important to them as their legacy stuff, so it’s natural for them to want to present it to us. No one wants to be a nostalgia act before they’re ready.
But as we’ve seen time and time again, audiences want to see legacy artists perform the big hits and damn the newer material. The Stones know this. Bowie tried to retire his big hits but was ultimately forced to resurrect them. And U2 is starting to get it.
Here’s the bottom line, though: if you’re a band whose biggest days were back in the 90s, your target audience should be those kids who grew up in the 90s and want to feel young again. Ergo, play the old hits, dummy!
Billy seems to have realized this. Finally. I quote from Billboard:
Billboard attended the tour’s July 9 concert at Irvine, Calif.’s Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, where Corgan and Co. (including original drummer Jimmy Chamberlin) played such crowd-pleasers as “Cherub Rock,” “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” “Zero” and more.
In a series of tweets on Saturday, Corgan wrote it was time to celebrate the legacy of the Smashing Pumpkins’ 30-year career.
“To speak to ‘why’ we are finally being the band that fans have expected since the return in 07, there’s nothing to fight anymore…,” Corgan tweeted. “So why NOW? Because it’s time: to celebrate the legacy, camaraderie, the journey, the kinship, and the band’s unique relationship to fans.”
Good. About bloody time. Now I can go to the next show knowing that I’m going to get my money’s worth. Read all Billy’s tweets on the subject here.