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Atmosphere. He loves a party with a happy atmosphere...

Atmosphere. He loves a party with a happy atmosphere. And, to prove he’s not the curmudgeonly ogre of legend, Billy Corgan

– hair-free master of ceremonies and dress-clad prophet of post-grunge gloom – wants us to

share in his excitement. “The metal is hot tonight,” he announces nobly – part Blofeld, part The

Great Soprendo- “so we’re gonna cool things

down for a moment.”

But hey, don’t crack open the Bacardi Breezers just yet, kids. For The Smashing Pumpkins’ idea of chilling out is less relaxation and more post-industrial Armageddon. Tonight is, after all, the final countdown to Corgan’s finely orchestrated rock’n’roll suicide; the last chapter of the Pumpkins’ book of revelations – an, ahem, smashing read that has, over the last decade, encompassed everything from drugs and death to double concept albums. Now, clearly, is not a time for quiet reflection. Now is the time for heavy metal meltdown. And we, accordingly, are gonna party like it’s 2099.

Or that, at least, is the plan. But, try as the Pumpkins might to bludgeon all sentimentality

from the occasion, it’s hard to watch this final pantomime unfurl without experiencing the odd pang of sadness. For where Corgan’s infamous recalcitrance may have suggested a bumpy ride to rock Valhalla, they go down with all guns blazing. And, as a result, it’s a truly tremendous, all-the-hits-and-more spectacular.

Even the bits when the Pumpkins give us drum solos and doodlesome guitar meanderings that sound like they’ve just escaped from Genesis’ tour truck. Even when the likes of ‘Everlasting Gaze’ and ‘Stand Inside Your Love’ (from final album ‘MACHINA/The Machines Of God’) morph into ten minute death operas with weird piano interjections and outrageously pompous pseudo-religious subtexts. Because even when The Smashing Pumpkins are bad, they’re still the greatest stadium metal band ever; rock titans with the sheer pop skill to transcend their proggier indulgences.

To prove it, they play David Essex’s simpering ‘Rock On’ and turn it into a seething furnace of brimstone and electro-treacle – Corgan in the middle it all, offering his guitar to the gods and grinning like a man as likely to give up this rock

lark as Fred Durst is likely to inherit his post-grunge crown. Thank you for the music, then. It was beautiful. Here’s to the past. Here’s to the future too.


Sarah Dempster