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Billy Corgan and The Dueling Rock Critics (or as we prefer to call it "The Meta Review")

By Julene McCoy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 8, 2005 4:47PM

Since Chicagoist doesn't have a job right now, we didn't try to attend the sold out shows at the Vic this week by Chicago's very own Billy Corgan. It does look like that it may not have been so difficult a task to get tickets to the 2nd show, but by then we were well into our couch recovering from the 4th's festivities.

We believe one of the hardest things to do is to reinvent yourself as a solo artist when coming from such a hugely popular band like the Smashing Pumpkins. Billy tried this with Zwan and didn't get any commercial success and now he's trying again with his solo album. The fans of Smashing Pumpkins make this difficult, but probably the hardest people to convince are hometown rock critics. This week both, Greg Kot (hot off his talks with Bono) and Jim Derogatis, reviewed Billy's shows at the Vic and have wildly different views of the show - surprise!

Derogatis' take on the show is that it was basically all style and no substance. "Corgan seemed to have spent much more time designing a futuristic stage set than considering how the songs could be transformed in concert." He also lamented that he might as well have been at home listening to his iPod since being live added nothing to the songs off the new album The Future Embrace. One also needs to remember that Jim got his interview with Billy Corgan overshadowed by the ad in the Chicago Tribune announcing the reunion of the Smashing Pumpkins. Jealous much, Jim?

Now for Greg Kot's take...

Corgan's guitar didn't sound like the dive-bombing assault weapon it was in the Pumpkins. Rather, it often functioned as a close cousin to the keyboards, a mood-setting sound-effects machine. Despite its more personal and intimate tone, the new music never slumped into mere melancholy or self-pity. Instead, it offered a more nuanced version of the turmoil that has always driven Corgan's best songs....On these songs, the violence of vintage Pumpkins was heard again, albeit in a twisted, electro-rock incarnation.

Both critics agree (OMG - they agreed) that the cover of AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll) was a strange choice for the performance. It seems to Chicagoist that Greg Kot is letting Billy Corgan change and evolve at his own pace, while Jim Derogatis prefers Billy and the Pumpkins the way they were.

Ahh, the debate will always rage. Who came first Billy Corgan or the Smashing Pumpkins? Make sure that you check out Linda Strawberry's Tour Journal for some pics from the shows and some backstage fun.