"This is your chance for immortality," Billy Corgan told a sold-out hometown crowd Monday night at the Metro in Chicago before encouraging crowd members to sing along to a folksy chorus. "Your part is very simple, but, as you know, I have a tyrannical reputation," he said, joshing with fans and friends who assembled to an experience a quiet, acoustic evening.
Performing his first-ever solo concert, Corgan unveiled a low-key twelve-song-cycle of Chicago-themed songs (plus a three-song encore) along with his understated sense of humor. The ninety-minute set included two encores and Corgan performed all unreleased material. The show was also recorded for a DVD to ostensibly accompany a solo album he is preparing to release later this year.
Attendees were given a program when they entered which included the lyrics to all the songs, including some handwritten margin notes. Each song referenced something endemic to Chicago-life, from the cross-town baseball rivalry between the Cubs and the White Sox to Riverview, a defunct amusement park.
The Metro's stage resembled a living room, with Corgan seated in a red velvet wingback chair flanked by flickering orange lights and a small end-table. Performing before a set of microphones and a music stand holding a folder of all of the lyrics, Corgan plucked delicate notes -- typically in a minor key -- from his acoustic guitar. Often, his clipped voice barely rose above a whisper. While the majority of the songs offered little in the way of overt melodies or even choruses, Corgan did vary the subdued formula to rousing effect on several songs.
"Say Goodbye" grew more intense with its repetitive refrain and "White Lights" featured some bluesy licks and fine finger-picking. Corgan repeatedly thanked fans for their silence and patience, mentioning the fact that he had never performed the songs publicly. He explained how he'd been writing the material for about three-and-a-half years, since even before the Smashing Pumpkins disbanded. "This music seemed to be an escape from everything that was going on at the time," he said. "It's been a real honor and pleasure to play these songs for the first time . . . in public."
Corgan ended the main set with "Columbus," an expansive paean to the explorer that swelled to languid heights with Corgan singing, "Everything I ever loved/I loved way too soon."
The evening featured nothing from the Smashing Pumpkins or Zwan catalog, but Corgan reminded fans of his upcoming solo album, joking, "I'm rocking some new jams . . . and I believe it's going to be an alternative album." Corgan began to play the Zwan outtake "For Your Love" during the second encore, but he aborted it in favor of unreleased material not even listed in the program.
Still, the capacity crowd left satisfied, cheering and shaking the hometown hero's hand as he exited the stage with a polite bow.
The World's Fair
Friends As Lovers
For Your Love