Billy Corgan’s Smashing Pumpkins celebrated the eve of their Monuments to an Elegy release with a small one-off show before a sold-out crowd at New York’s Webster Hall on Monday night. Corgan and guitarist Jeff Schroeder enlisted Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk and Killers bassist Mark Stoermer for an almost two-hour set that oscillated between intense and meandering as the new lineup found its footing.
This Pumpkins lineup played their first show last month in Chicago, and since then their set lists have remained mostly consistent, mixing new Elegy tracks with old crowd-pleasers. The crowd, it turned out, preferred the latter, but Corgan seemed to become most electrified when he performed his recent work: During “Tiberius,” he appeared possessed, and closer “Burnt Orange-Black” was an obvious highlight.
When the band hit the stage, Corgan immediately launched into “One and All (We Are),” the second single from the new album, pumping his fist for the duration of the song before bringing the energy down for a somber “Being Beige” with green, blue, and red lights falling over the band. After a pause for tuning and tweaking (minor sound issues meant that this process would be repeated throughout the night) Corgan pulled a coin from his pocket and flipped it into the crowd just as the bass from “Hummer” kicked in, an unexplained move that earned the band their first loud response.
Before the band reached their fifth song, however, the lights began to flicker and Corgan announced that they’d already blown their bass amp three times: “Welcome to New York City, that’s what happens,” he sighed. Regardless, they began to play “Tonight, Tonight,” and the crowd of raised iPhones illuminated the room before the house lights returned for the chorus. The Pumpkins carried this moment (and an extended percussion intro) into “Drum + Fife,” the best-received new song they played all night. The sound problems seemed to return during “Glass and Ghost Children,” but at this point, Corgan was a roll, even lifting his guitar above his head as he thrashed around under an aggressive strobe light.
The singer spoke to the crowd only to say a simple “thank you” and introduce “Stand Inside Your Love,” off Machina. Later, he introduced “Monuments” by doing – of all things – his best McConaughey, a spirited “all right, all right, all right,” and Schroeder looked for the silver lining in the night’s tech issues: “At least it’s an adventure.”
For the audience, the show peaked with the run of “Drown,” “Disarm” and “Zero.” Nearly everyone sang along, especially after they realized the room was too crowded to dance. Corgan, unencumbered onstage, sauntered around, stomping and clapping into “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” before drunk-uncle grooving to a cover of David Bowie’s “Fame.”
“Silverfuck” closed the set, and the band returned for an encore of “Ava Adore” and “Burnt Orange-Black.” At first, a few fans shouted for “Today,” but after Corgan took his bow it became clear the old-school hit parade wasn’t going to continue. For this iteration of the Pumpkins (as well as the most recent few), the focus isn’t on the past, but what’s coming next.