Themadcaplaughs posted on Netphoria about Smashing Pumpkins’ show in Birmingham:
Went to the Birmingham show from Atlanta. The venue was a local brewery with a stage in the back, so no matter any issues I had with the show, it was a really cool experience seeing them in such an intimate venue. Some random thoughts:
-The CYR songs translated better live than I expected. I knew that more of the album than we probably expected was guitars, but Jeff and James really play off of each other on those songs with the atmospheric guitars, and it made me realize the album may be more of a band effort than we expected. Jeff in particular shined on those songs. He went between the atmospheric synth-y sound and more traditional lead lines that had an almost David Gilmour-ish quality to them. It was one of a few times where I could specifically point to something Jeff did and really say it elevated the songs.
-That being said, “Black Forest, Black Hills” was rough go. Musically it sounded fine, but it was placed right after two really great performances (“Cherub Rock” and “Zero”). To go from that to Black Forest was just like sucking the air out of the room. The crowd just had a blank look on its face the whole song. It was similar to when they played “Run2Me” right after “1979” on the Manson tour, the only difference being Black Forest is not as objectively awful of a song.
-“Solara” can be added to the list of cool songs that got slaughtered in the studio. Every time I’ve seen it live, it does really well, and the interlude in the middle sounded like 1990s level Pumpkins jamming.
-I am usually not a fan of the “let’s play SP hits on just acoustic guitars,” but the “Tonight, Tonight” with just Billy and James was one of the highlights of the show. To hear their guitars play off each other like that was so revealing of how differently the two of them approach the same chord progression and strumming patterns. It was really the “soul” of the SP sound: James and Billy doing their guitar weaving.
-Can’t believe I’m about to say this, but goddamn if “FOL” of all things was not one of the coolest moments of the show. The lyrics are still ridiculous, but they really filled out the arrangement on that song. If I’d been played this with no context, I could have imagined this being some sort of MCIS outtake. We even got a Jack Bates bass solo during the song of all fucking things (which made Billy and James crack up).
-“Silverfuck” made it worth the price of admission. I do not know why that one song in particular, but it works from beginning to end. I like the arrangement which sticks closer to the album with some of the jamming at the end. Again, the jamming sounded like it could have been prime 1990s era “Silverfuck”.
-Jimmy remains a legend and a freak of nature. I saw some people saying he looked “worn out” recently, but I felt he – somehow – looked like he playing at full efficiency and making it look damn easy.
-I get the complaints about Jack. It’s shallow, but he really does have zero stage presence and looks like he walked to the venue from his desk job somewhere, but ultimately, I can see why Billy hired him and keeps using him. In terms of his playing style and bass tone, he’s the closest to D’arcy we’ve gotten.
-On a negative, I did not like the “Once in a Lifetime” cover. As I said in another thread, Billy pulled it off in 2000 because he had the energy and voice, but it just doesn’t work now. This was another one where (at least from where I stood) people seemed to tune out a bit. Hell, I would have taken one of the better CYR songs over this.
-Billy is struggling with his voice on a few of the older songs. I am not referring to the dropped consonants and lack of screaming (although those both are still a factor), but he just seems to be having a harder time hitting the notes and holding his power in general. During “Stand Inside Your Love,” he was really struggling to hit the higher notes in the chorus. I realize age plays a large factor in voices, and we’ve seen some big name rock stars having diminishing returns on vocals (see Bon Jovi, Vince Neil, James Hetfield), so it just comes with the turf, but it really was the first time I’d seen it at this level. You could kind of tell he was holding back when I saw them in 2018 and 2019, but he still pulled it off pretty effectively then.
-Jeff. He really is a wild card. As I said above, I thought the work he did on the CYR songs was really noteworthy. Also, as others have said, when he sticks to the script and just adds riffs and minor fills to the oldies, it really makes the band sound fucking massive. But all of the heavy metal wank and dive-bombs sticks out like a sore thumb. I thought maybe it might translate better in person, but hearing dive-bombs, shredding, and whammy squeals before “Quiet” was just so…wrong in every way.