Ten years ago, on December 2nd, 2000, The Smashing Pumpkins performed the “very last show” of their career at the Metro, in Chicago – the same place where the full band played their first ever gig in 1988. The 38-song marathon was the end of an era for the Pumpkins, who had owned a significant chunk of the 90s rock real estate and were about to pass through an unholy purging of participants that would, a decade later, find band nucleus Billy Corgan releasing crushingly unlistenable solo material under the Pumpkins name, arguably tarnishing the legacy.
Though Corgan has soldiered on alone with the band name, for better or worse, on the anniversary of what many consider to be the last legitimate gasp of the band, Billy took to Facebook to reflect and share the story of his experience at the “final” gig. In the process, he expressed a level of reflective humility, recalling the band’s “journey of death” and wishing he’d embraced the moment when he broke down crying onstage – while reminding us all that he’s more than happy with the current state of Smashing Pumpkins affairs.
Firstly, he recalled how the band prepared for the 4-hour long set, with nearly 40 songs: “First thing that comes to mind is that we only had about 6 days to prepare the about 14 or so extra songs that we added to try to make the show both historic and memorable. normally this much work in such a short time would have been met with resistance, but everyone was in good spirits to have the 11 months of touring finally over.”
He also commented on his idea to record a new album during the band’s final stretch, which was met with resistance by other band members: “My original plan was to book the metro out for the whole month of January and make one last album, writing songs and recording them live in rehearsal and then playing them at night at the ‘shows’…can’t remember how many shows we would have done per week? Maybe 3 or 4. [James] Iha and [Melissa] Auf Der Maur hated the idea and said no. A shame, could have been amazing. Band was tight at that point and i was motivated to write more.”
About the Metro show itself, he recalls the night’s awkward beginnings:
“We had been opening with 5 songs acoustic in Europe as a way to set a different tone because each night the audience was thinking they were seeing the band for the last time. there the audiences went with the somber beginning, and so i stupidly assumed that an American audience would go the same way with it. Wrong! once we finally lit it up with ‘glass’ theme (song 6) the place went nuts.
“We played 38 songs i believe, over 4 hours of music. i had never played that long before, nor have i since. i wasn’t even sure my voice would hold up that long, but it did. actually it got stronger as the night went on. the first song was ‘rocket’, which we were supposed to play after the mellon collie theme intro, which was played off a cd. the theme finished, i lit into the opening riff of ‘rocket’.
“Unfortunately, no one turned off the cd, , so as i was playing i heard ‘tonight, tonight’ come blaring out of the p.a….classic SP fuck-up for trying to be fancy. the show as i remember was fairly good, but incredibly hot and at about 90 min in the crowd was just totally worn out. i thoughtto myself ‘wow, we got a long way to go!’
“Act 2 honestly felt like a sad funeral, and people started talking. i felt the whole thing slipping away from me, but i realized that it was all part of the journey of death that we were on. life moves on, and when the show was over i too had to move on. i honestly thought that it would be the last time i would play most of these songs, and it felt good to let them go.
“Act three was designed to bring the energy back up, and it did. the last encore i think was ‘silverfuck’, which had a lot of improvisation in it. it wasn’t all planned out, and i remember thinking of my deceased mother alot. it all came down to ‘where was mommy?’ in the end of it all, as it begins so does it end. i turned to look at Jimmy and said ‘that’s it’, and it ended without form best as i remember.
“I broke down on stage crying but i remember being quite embarassed about it. i’ve thought about that moment many times, and i wish in hindsight that i’d let myself just have a good cry right then and there, because you won’t find yourself in a spot like that many times in your life. after we had a little party, playing dvd bootlegs of the band on a screen on stage.
“Once it was over, there was a shift, so playing the videos felt like watching a car crash again and again. it was overkill for everyone, including me. pictures and Chopin would have been better. i asked where James was, and someone had said he had left, without saying goodbye to me or Jimmy, a real final fuck you in my eyes. outside of a phone conversation about business in 2001, i haven’t seen him since
About the possibility of releasing the final show, Corgan added:
“One more thing: please stop asking about the show ever coming out (i say this good heartedly). it will come out when the time is right. it should have come out in 2001 but EMI squashed it, and we got the rights back. hopefully it will be put out one day when tall he albums get re-issued. it would make sense for it to come out with the Machina era stuff.”
Corgan reunited the band in 2005 with only half of its original lineup before soldiering on entirely alone, and has since been recording songs that completely fail to hold a candle to the old Pumpkins. He finished by saying:
“I think as more time goes by we all should look at SP as having 2 totally different eras, ‘old school’ and ‘new school’ or whatever. call it what you want, the SP of 2005-2010 and counting has been a different animal, albeit with similar goals set in a different world. “‘old’ SP ended exactly 10 years ago this night, and it a’int ever coming back. from my vantage point, that’s a good thing. that band will never sell out and never grow old gracefully (because honestly it couldn’t). long live SP 1987-2000 a great fucking band when it was ‘on’. and a nightmare when it was ‘off’. thanks for checking out these thoughts/memories, love BC”
There you have it. If you’d like to hear the final show, you can download it.