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Concert review

Fans got all they wanted at Asheville show


The Smashing Pumpkins will be in Asheville, N.C., tomorrow night (Thursday) to wrap up their unprecedented nine-show residency at the 942-capacity Orange Peel. A total of 8,478 tickets for the shows sold out in less than five minutes. Fortunately, I was able to secure two for the performance on Sunday, June 24.

In the words of Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan, the Chicago based band chose to play “so many shows in a fixed locale to foster an environment of creativity, risk taking, and mutual community … to attempt to find some new forms (musically and aesthetically) that will point us future forward. This means playing songs not yet written (and) digging through some forgotten ones.”

Needless to say, there was an excitement building around this event that I cannot explain. But I knew I had to experience it and was glad for the opportunity.

Upon arriving at the venue (an exceptional club – very profes- sional, with excellent sound and atmosphere), the line of Pumpkins fans was massive, but we arrived early enough to guarantee a close spot for the general admission show. Because only 20% of the available tickets were sold locally, the crowd was mostly tourists from other states.

The fact that the Smashing Pumpkins chose Asheville to be their base for two weeks speaks volumes about this town – which some have since dubbed “Smasheville” – and the Orange Peel.

When the Pumpkins hit the stage around 10 p.m., the crowd grew ecstatic. A few people were lucky enough to have attended the first show the night before, but the majority were in for an unexpected treat. The band performed two full sets (including an acoustic set highlighted by songs that Corgan has written while in Asheville), and an hourlong encore of just three songs – the last being a 30-minute version of “Gossamer,” a song recorded for but not used on the band’s new album “Zeitgeist.” The song featured Corgan’s lead guitar work and the wall of sound that accompanied it.

One of the highlights was a string of hits that included two of the band’s biggest, “Zero” from 1995’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and “Today” from 1993’s Siamese Dream. The entire show, which featured more than 25 songs over about a threehour period, was well balanced between new and old. Even though “Zeitgeist” isn’t scheduled to be released until July 10 it didn’t appear anyone was too upset with hearing the new songs. In fact, it didn’t appear that anyone was too upset with any of the material.

An interesting note is that when these shows were announced, the Orange Peel and the Smashing Pumpkins invited fans to capture the event in any form they liked (audio, video, photographs, etc.). This open taping policy insures these shows won’t be forgotten by anyone who attended. (You can view several clips from these shows on www.youtube.com. Photos are available at www.flickr.com.)

This band is really tight, with a slick new look and a great rapport with audience. Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain are the only two of the four original members remaining. Founding guitarist James Iha and bassist D’arcy Wretzky have been replaced by Jeff Schroeder (formerly of Lassie Foundation) and Ginger Reyes (ex-Halo Friendlies), respectively. Session keyboardist Lisa Harriton was also in the lineup.

The vibe was very exciting, and at the end of the evening – after the last note had faded and the band had left the stage – only a sense of satisfaction remained. We, the lucky ones, felt like we had been rocked. No complaints. No cheers for more. Just the overwhelming sense of satisfaction. Not many bands can do that. As far as I could tell, no one really needed more. We simply got what we had come for – a great rock concert, by a great rock band, in a great rock club, with great rock fans.

That’s a combination for a good evening.

Charles Fontaine hosts a weekly blues radio show on WMMT-FM in Whitesburg on Friday nights at 10. He owns a music store in Wise, Virginia (Dad’s Cds), and can be reached by email at scenic.overlook@verizon.net or www.myspace.com/chazarrelli.


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