Billy Corgan @ Saint Luke's, Glasgow, 17 Jun
The Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan debuts new solo music and shares personal monologues in a beautifully intimate performance of three parts
Crowned by the decadence of Saint Luke’s distinctive organ and stained glass, Billy Corgan, enveloped in some gothic-style cape, emerges from the old sacristy. In his lonesome he carries a knowing air of mystery, as if we're indebted to him for such an intimate evening.
As he places a lyric-bearing iPad on what we could consider his alter, his presence becomes curiously pious; a God-like irony. 'I’m no fool but you fool me' he begins, with only an acoustic to accompany him. Spitting on the stage floor between the first two (unnamed) songs, Corgan creates a cold polarity in the room: he and us. His opening dialogue is interrupted with a friendly heckle, though he soon shuts this down as he retorts almost instantaneously with "don’t fucking talk to me."
As he continues, he explains how the night before he, along with The Smashing Pumpkins, played a show to 50,000 people, affirming the sheer intimacy of tonight's show. More still, we are endowed with the distinction of being some of the first to hear songs from his forthcoming third solo record, due for release this autumn.
These new songs, though, carry some discomfort. If 2017’s Ogilala is to be considered folk, it seems an overstrained Corgan may be headed in some country direction, as Kate Cole joins him for a short stint that hears his voice shake in overreaching pitch.
Soon repositioning himself at a piano, facing away from the bulk of the room, Corgan begins the first conversational piece of the evening. "I find this weird dichotomy when I play with the band and when I play by mysef", he admits. "When I play on my own there’s some discrepancy. It’s not lesser than the band, it’s different to the band."
It's here, guarded by warm familiarity of rehearsed performance, that Corgan begins to open up. No longer are we standing in awe of this transcendent being, but sharing in the life of an ordinarily humble man. Ogilala’s Processional and famed piano ballad Aeronaut launch the evening into undeniable beauty. The Long Goodbye is introduced as a song "about me singing to the aliens to get me the fuck off this planet". Zowie is met with an extensive monologue on Corgan’s relationship with dreams, how this song was born from a dream "as much as a reality as we’re in right now" that saw an intimate interaction with David Bowie following his passing, the song being "about honouring him in the only way I know how."
A 15-minute break brings what is essentially the third act of the evening into fruition. Still met with personal stories and hesitant questionings of continuation, Corgan plays out the evening with a series of Pumpkins’ classics, from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness to Siamese Dream. Warmed with further interludes by monologue, the gig is no longer cold in polarity, but carries more of a fantastical tenderness that one might label: An Evening with Billy Corgan.