Take one of the great alternative rock bands from the ‘90s, make the music acoustic, send them on a tour and you get Smashing Pumpkins’ “In Plainsong,” which played to a sold-out Kingsbury Hall on Tuesday night.
The Chicago guitarist Liz Phair opened for the band, playing alone for her entire set. She kept the crowd entertained by making sarcastic replies to some of the audience member’s shouts to the stage. She told the audience that performing there was similar to being at an open mic night, a feeling shared by the audience.
“[It’s] just you and me,” she said.
Her hit “Why Can’t I” was the highlight of the evening.
After her performance, Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan walked out on stage with an acoustic guitar, bowing to the audience before playing their new song “Cardinal Rule.” He then sang the next few songs alone, with “Tonight, Tonight” garnering one of the largest cheers of the night. Following this, guitarist Jeff Schroeder came onstage. Eventually the rest of the band joined in.
Along with classics such as “Today” and “Eye,” the band played a few cover songs from Corgan’s solo project, as well as a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and an encore of the Rolling Stones’ “Angie.”
While it was obvious Corgan’s vocals struggled a little at times, his trademark nasally voice remained powerful.
It wasn’t until “Sorrows in Blue” that Corgan became more relaxed and started enjoying himself. That was the crowd’s cue to do the same, and their cheers became more enthusiastic after each song.
While the concert was billed as an acoustic tour, synthesizers and backing tracks were used throughout, along with electric guitars. It was especially confusing when the band performed their hit “1979” performed mostly by Corgan to a backing track, although the band was still on stage. This was not the only song where this happened. The drumming backing track made little to no sense, as Kingsbury Hall’s acoustics are phenomenal and rendered the backing track unnecessary.
Corgan explained this tour was a chance for the band to perform songs as they were originally written.
Another pitfall of the concert was the band’s refusal to play requests.
“We don’t take requests, go to a pub if you want that,” Corgan said after some audience members shouted some songs.
“Landslide!” a young woman shouted.
“We don’t take requests, young lady, and that’s the point. That’s been the point for the last 29 to 30 years,” Corgan said. He then went on a mini-rant that can be best described as “I’m humble and better than the sellouts.”
It was utterly disappointing that the band did not cover Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.”
But despite all this, the night proved that even the biggest bands can put on a fantastic show even without all the fancy instruments. The night was an intimate moment for the audience — just them and the Pumpkins enjoying the moment.