Split into two distinct sets — an early, mostly acoustic portion and a second, harder-rocking program — the sold-out show was that rare concert that challenged the audience’s perception of the artists, yet delivered on the strengths that fans have come to expect.
Most of the experimentation came during the 45-minute quieter set.
Tender songs of love and loneliness — many from the current top 10 album “Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” (Virgin) — were offered by the seated musicians in a manner that drew in the listener to the songs’ delicate contrarieties. Lines such as “Suffer my desire for you,” from “In the Arms of Sleep,” were sung back to the band by eyes-closed teens seemingly sharing singer Billy Corgan’s longing.
“Today,” from 1993’s breakthrough “Siamese Dream,” was deconstructed into a nifty marching band-like arrangement and also sported new lyrics, indicating an acquiescence of sorts for Corgan, who, until recently, ran the band like a dictatorship.
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But it was the latter part of the concert that the fans had jumped through ticket hoops to hear. The Pumpkins brought out the big guns, tearing through such explosive tunes as “Geek USA,” recent radio staple “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “Zero.”
Highlight of the show, though, was current single “1979,” an escapist sequel to the band’s past hit “Rocket” that, through clever use of comforting reminiscence and challenging coming-of-age awareness, deftly encapsulates the heart of this band.
The Pumpkins’ tour hits San Francisco today and Wednesday.