Billy Corgan Prepares To Test That “1000 True Fans” Hypothesis By Alienating A Huge Chunk Of His Audience

Nov 7th, 2008 // 11 Comments

A concert that ends with the performer trying to connect with this audience by wondering aloud, as they might, “Did I pay for this shit?” is probably a show that’s beset with problems. So it was with the Smashing Pumpkins’ show in New York City last night, Billy Corgan et al‘s first performance in the NYC metro area in nine (!) years, which ended with Corgan baiting the audience with that very taunt, according to Matthew Perpetua, who was in the United Palace audience last night. There were also “at least 40 minutes of formless prog-metal dirges and artless, atonal drones,” and lousy setlists that eschewed the depths of the Pumpkins’ catalog in favor of the track from the trailer for The Watchmen and other new songs. (Also, he wore a “Zero” shirt but didn’t play the song in question, which just seems cruel, you know?)

Now, it’s bad enough to subject your audience to about 40 minutes of abrasive, deliberately off-putting music, but it’s even more uncool to come back for an encore that mocks them for not being 100% with you, and feeling disappointed for not hearing more of what they expected to hear from a show billed as a 20th anniversary concert. In conventional show biz logic, if you’re going to go that far, you should at least leave the audience with a crowd-pleaser. In Billy Corgan logic, you come out and perform one of the lesser songs from your best-selling album, and then finish off with a song that mixes disingenuous hippy-dippy “everyone is beautiful!” lyrics with improvised sarcastic rants that outright diss the city you’re playing in, mock the fans for paying to see your band, and tell your visibly disappointed audience that you’ll see them in hell. It was full-on douche-tastic passive-aggression. It’s as if he set out to do this heel turn, and purposefully alienate as much of the audience as possible. Well, it worked. Believe me, unless you’ve witnessed other shows on this tour, it’s unlikely you’ve seen a more defeated audience exit from a rock show.

Sure, tonight’s show apparently has a different, better set list. But one can’t help but wonder what’s going on. The only explanation is the heel-turn idea outlined by Perpetua, and really, it seems kinda logical: Corgan’s fetishization of wrestling has resulted in him going all Hollywood on his fans… but they shouldn’t worry, since the next five years will consist of him realizing his transgressions and redeeming himself just in time for a 25th anniversary tour. (After all, anniversaries with precious-metal associations are so much more profitable!)

One Last Trip To Hell [Fluxblog]

  1. Al Shipley

    I was really thinking of shelling out the money for one of their 2 shows here next week. If I still do, it sounds like show #2 is the better bet, but I probably won’t.

  2. Ned Raggett

    My decision to pretend this ‘reunion’ never happened keeps being increasingly justified.

  3. smashirony!

    Are they sure it was Billy Corgan, and not Lou Barlow in goth drag?

  4. Anonymous

    I was there last night, wasn’t as bad as everyone is saying. I think he was saying these things in more of a sarcastic manner but, if there’s anything to be learned from this situation, we should never take Billy Corgan too seriously.

    Also, there was a shirt they were selling that read “The Smashing Pumpkins: 20 Years of Sadness.” My friend and I both decided it would be better if it read “The Smashing Pumpkins: 20 years of sadness (13 years of baldness)”

  5. Elijah-M

    He more or less did the same thing when I saw them open for the Red Hot Chili Peppers at Roseland in 1991. He berated the crowd for not being more enthusiastic, which seemed odd, since his band wasn’t what people had paid money to see. At the time, I made a very important mental note: no matter how good their albums are, never pay to see this band. It’s hardly a suprise that 17 years later, he’s still every bit as much of a dick.

  6. Anonymous

    Funny…I saw them in 1991 at Barrymore’s in Ottawa…and that show was AMAZING!!!
    I never saw them again…
    And they never were making music I liked after that…(Billy’s nonsense to the press about how the second LP was gonna be miles different to the first one…resulted in king-sized disgust in me when I heard it…yep…it was just better produced versions of the first record…in my mind at the time….and also it wasn’t as good…)

    No…I saw them at their Zenith..and James Iha covered Syd Barrett’s “Terrapin” at that concert too! Billy played a mean guitar that night….it was great…

  7. T'Challa

    @sydbarrett05: I’m right there with you. I was lucky enough to see the SP multiple times during the Gish era, and they were brilliant. At the same time, Billy would barely speak between songs, which was obviously a wise choice.

    But when I saw them on that notorious Lollapalooza tour in ’95(?) with the Beastie Boys, it had already turned to shit. Billy berated the audience basically for not screaming as loud for them as for the BBs. And as much as people tried to get into it, he just settled into dick mode for the rest of the night. I think I saw them once after that, and by then D’arcy was gone, and it was just not the same.

    I’ll always swear by everything they put out through ‘Siamese Dream’/'Pisces Escariot’, and that’s pretty much it.

    Don’t you just hate it when a good artist turns out to be a screaming ass? I sure do. He can’t even get James Iha to come back around, and that’s a genuine shame…

  8. Christopher R. Weingarten

    I hope Weezer does this too.

  9. so1omon

    I know it’s not a popular opinion, but Jeff Schroeder is 10 times the guitar player that James Iha ever was. That being said, I’ve been bored to tears with everything the Pumpkins have done since Siamese Dream.

  10. Dick Laurent is dead.

    I like to pretend he died after making Machina and was replaced a Cylon/alien/Elvis/whathaveyou…it’s less painful that way.

  11. Richaod

    Anyone remember when Billy refused to play Pumpkins songs on his solo tours? Seems like he’s still doing it!

    Btw, “that song from the Watchmen trailer” is about 10 years old and originally featured on the Batman and Robin soundtrack, which I suppose is why no one remembers it.

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