The high-pitched guitar riff of “Today” kicked off Smashing Pumpkins’ set last night in Houston. I was on my feet before the first note came over the speakers. Ready. Eager to connect with the music, to feel the sound in my chest, in my soul. Unfortunately, it fell a little flat. Not the song or even the performance – Billy Corgan killed it last night. As did James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlain, Jeff Shroeder and the rest of the touring musicians. Even in the heat – that James complained about plenty. It’s okay, as a fellow Midwesterner, I get it. It’s hot down here. Anyway. The first two songs of the set, the speakers didn’t seem to be turned on for the lawn (which is where we were, “the cheap seats”). About three songs in, it got louder, but not heart-thumping loud. Not engulfed by the sound and unable to refuse its calling loud. But, louder than the first two songs. I guess.
We’ve been to this venue several times. We always get lawn seats and even though we’re far away, I always feel connected to the music. I crave this connection, so I keep coming back for more. Live music is supposed to be life-giving. Last night, on the lawn, that magic spark never came through. Part of it was the sound issues, part of it was they played several new songs that I wasn’t intimately familiar with, and that’s on me. But mostly, it was the crowd. Our little group was the only group on our feet in our section of the lawn.
Let me repeat that. Billy Corgan was giving that guitar all he had, and we were the only five people in our section standing.
Talk about d r a i n i n g…
“The World is a Vampire…” Corgan droned about a third of the way through the set. I feel you, Billy. The people on the lawn last night were live music vampires. They drained the joy, the indescribable spark you get when everyone is feeling it all together, right out of that show.
I’m sorry Billy, James, Jimmy, Jeff and crew, I wanted to feel it. I wanted to revel in the sound you were throwin’ down last night. But there was something missing up on the lawn.
Next time, I’ll spring for the good seats.
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A footnote: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds were amazing. I knew the Oasis stuff, but that was about it, really. And yet, I loved it all. It was still daylight, everyone was sitting down but singing along. I read an article that framed Noel as a pompous jerk who berated the crowd. He didn’t come across that way where we were. He was funny, gregarious, and I think he was even a little bit smitten.