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From Tewligans to the Gardens
By Mark Clark
The last time Smashing Pumpkins were in Louisville — less than a year ago — they played tiny Tewligans Tavern. April 13, the band returned and sold out the 7,000-seat Louisville Gardens.
The band's sudden explosion in popularity can be summed up in two words: Siamese Dream.
The airplay given that thrilling album — one of 1993's best, by any yardstick — gave this veteran band the exposure it needed. April 13, the band gave Louisville fans what they came for — 90 brain-warping minutes of neo-psychedelic rock.
The band serves thick slabs of distorted, feedback-powered guitar on top of urgent, rocking backbeats. Smashing Pumpkins are remarkably adept at recreating their sound from Siamese Dream live. This is not a band that relies on studio trickery.
In concert, that head-trip sound is accented by a mesmerizing light show that recalls early Pink Floyd — multicolored floods, spots, strobes, lasers; a projection screen that shifts and blinks with whirling spirals, throbbing ink blots and other madness.
Smashing Pumpkins surged out of the gate behind the pulsing guitar of "Rocket," offered a searing version of "Quiet" and then knocked out virtually everything the crowd had come to hear.
In short order, the group dispensed with radio hits "Disarm," "Today" and "Cherub Rock," from Siamese Dream, and "Drown," from the "Singles" movie soundtrack. A half-hour into the show, many customers had heard everything they knew. "Today" and "Cherub Rock" were especially powerful.
"Disarm," however, was marred by unruly fans, who threw objects at the stage and hurled insults at the band. Singer/guitarist Billy Corgan flipped off a few of the hooligans, but things didn't calm down until he threatened to walk off stage.
"I'm not going to stand up here and have people throwing s— at us," he said. Corgan made it clear his wrath wasn't directed at the entire crowd. "There are 7,000 people here and 10 a—holes," he said.
From there, the band moved on to other Siamese Dream tracks — offering inspired versions of "Hummer" and "Geek USA," among others — then left some fans in the dust by pulling out five or six cuts from earlier, lesser-known albums.
It all sounded great, even if none but the hardest core fans had any idea what they were listening to. The band's closer was a 10-minute feedback fest which somehow wriggled its way into "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Somebody write and tell me what this song is and where I can find it.
Red, Red Meat's 30-minute opening set was rough-hewn, to put it gently. Their sound is loud, hard and slow — psycho-punk dirges that often try listeners' patience.
The crowd would have none of it. They booed and pelted the band with shoes as they left the stage. "You suck!" somebody shouted.
Couldn't have put it better myself.