July 21, 2024

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Looks like The Smashing Pumpkins haven’t forgotten how to please crowds

Looks like The Smashing Pumpkins haven’t forgotten how to please crowds

It’s amazing how history sometimes repeats itself. In 1992, The Smashing Pumpkins wore dresses on stage at the Metropolis Festival, right next to Ahoy. Now here they are again. This time not next to him, but in Ahoy. And there he is: Billy Corgan wearing a dress again, as if time had stopped for a moment.

Photography by Dmitry Haki

Time hasn’t really stopped, of course. Because the promise of the past (the Pumpkins became world-famous after Metropolis) is now an old-school rock band in 2024. A band that still releases a lot of new music, but relies on old acts played live for years. And yet, grand venues like Ahoy around the world continue to operate at full capacity.

First, let’s talk a little about Ahoy itself, where there have been far fewer concerts since the Ziggo Dome opened. This piece may have been written by a biased Rotterdam resident, but Ahoy turns out to be a wonderful folk temple with a history. Like the huge final chords of tonight tonight It rolls through the hall, like the most beautiful final chords of 90s rock, struck by historical consciousness in Rotterdam style.

So all the world’s greats have really been here. From Leonard Cohen to The Cure. More Ahoy would do us all good, because the hall will look beautiful in 2024, and so will the city. Rotterdam is a vibrant city and that impresses the artists too, as guitarist James Iha says several times. Rotterdam is “a hell of a place,” he says. And: “Rotterdam, you’re the best.” Even Billy Corgan chimes in: “aaaaaawwww, Rotterdam,” Ahoy simply deserves more than just a stand-in.

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The Billy who mocks is actually the same person who can be stubborn and rude. Thirty years after Metropolis, it remains just as elusive. “No, I don’t play songs if I don’t want to,” he said a few days before this tour began. Fans were immediately in an uproar. Has he finally stopped pleasing the masses? Was he really going to do what seemed to be hanging over the market: do exactly what he wanted? The fact that they got it wrong says it all.

But visits are still on the set list. Also in Ahoy. So much. Ava I love, 1979, Bullet with butterfly wings: Old acquaintances of a whole generation. We feel reassured immediately at the opening: they are played with the throttle (or effects pedal) fully depressed. With Corgan hitting the rocks and cheering the front rows. With Iha letting herself play along. With drummer Jimmy Chamberlin applauding him. No hesitation, no tired band, no inspiration. Here are sets of “rock music” played, with few breaks in between.

The Pumpkins are building a wall of guitar you can almost lean against, with new guitarist Kiki Wong being an eye-catcher. She plays like she has something to prove. Billy also gives her space, visits and introduces her. After a few weeks of touring, I was part of the band, and there seemed to be no more doubt. Only its countless rocky poses are a bit annoying. Going back a little would be nice. The spirit of Darcy and James Iha who was previously so shy is very distant in her playing. One more step and she could join Kiss or AC/DC.

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When that kind of kitsch—which is also musical, by the way, and sometimes very ugly, with the tinny synths groaning across the hall—is gone and the Pumpkins breathe some oxygen into their music, the band is instantly at its best. A few years ago, Corgan played a piano solo at TivoliVredenburg, but he hadn’t shown this more intimate side of himself. This rock tour is all about the big gesture.

But we still find that oxygen. Through Ruby’s eyes by Mellon Collie and Infinite Sadnessplayed after the original hit today, is the highlight. In this case, time – at least for this journalist – actually stops. Memories of Walkmans and long car trips to the south of France come to mind. “Always immerse me, draw me to what might happen,” Corgan sings. classic It’s pumpkin, and frankly much prettier than what the band makes these days.

Do you go back to ancient times? No, Ahoy’s not quite full tonight. The fabrics of some compartments hang at the back of the second ring and the back remains empty. At the same time, tonight the band is attracting a larger crowd than it has in years. A previous tour brought the Pumpkins to the much smaller AFAS Live. This must be especially good for Corgan, who has become very sensitive about how his band is perceived. More than thirty years after Metropolis, there’s still growth. This deserves praise.

Visible: 29 June 2024 in Ahoy, Rotterdam