When an album as grandly produced as “Siamese Dream” is released by a band with as big a buzz as the Smashing Pumpkins, speculation quickly begins on whether the band will manage the often-delicate task of reproducing the album sound in a live setting.
Such was the question when the Chicago-based four-piece outfit took the stage at the Palladium, a venue reknowned for its acoustic insensitivity toward rock bands, for the first of two sold-out weekend shows. Given that Butch Vig, the man behind the console for Nirvana’s awesome “Nevermind” disc, had layered the Pumpkins’ record with seemingly unprecedented amounts of feedback-happy guitar, it was clear that acknowledged bandleader Billy Corgan (vocals, guitar) had his work more than cut out for him.
But, perhaps surprisingly, the Virgin-signed band pulled it off. Both the controlled wildness of Corgan’s guitar leads and the tortured-soul wails of his voice managed to cut through the bottom-heavy Palladium sound that had claimed opening acts Medicine and Shudder to Think as victims.
Sticking primarily to songs from “Dream” (which hit the top 10), the band weaved thickly arranged soundscapes that reverberated through the house like so much amplified confessional.
Corgan’s plaintive, often pleading lyrics found willing purchase in the minds of all in the packed house. When he cried “let me out” during “Cherub Rock” (the first single from “Siamese Dream”), the crowded floor assemblage rose, as one, in a spontaneous reactionary move that was chilling to witness — it testified to the intensity of Smashing Pumpkins and to the strong bond it fosters with the audience.
Other highlights of the 90-minute show were the ironic wall-of-sound of “Quiet”; “Drown,” a crowd-pleasing mood piece from the “Singles” soundtrack; “Rhinoceros,” the best song from the quartet’s Caroline debut “Gish”; and new single “Today,” arguably “Siamese Dream’s” best.
Opening song “Disarm,” a tune that was killed by a painful sound mix, and an extended, noisy musical jam that closed the concert, were the evening’s only slip-ups.