BillyCorgan back in the city which was the penultimate stop for his formeroutfit, The Smashing Pumpkins, on their road to disbandment.
That night, in the vast spaces of Wembley Arena, anout of sorts Corgan pranced around like a sacrificial Priest of Zion, withmatching regalia. It was a harrowing two hours of muddyacoustics and ill-performed stadium rock, saved only by happymemories from the early-’90s heyday of the Pumpkins.
Tonight though, taking stage to a glorious welcome, the five poets ofZwan opened with the sprawling gospel rock of Jesus I, before shifting intothe optimism of Endless Summer and a superb Lyric.
Aided by the venue’s sharp acoustics, the quintetperformed with pristine precision. Varying from the crowd bouncingDeclarations of Faith, current single Honestly and an astonishing extendedreworking of Mary Star of the Sea, it was a joy simply to listen.
Not that Zwan weren’t worth watching. JimmyChamberlain pummeled like a human drum machine, keeping anunconventional tempo, while girl bassist Paz Lenchantinmoved about excitedly, enticing the crowd to join in. Guitarist MattSweeney rocked about in an invisible one-metre circle, while DavidPajo virtually nailed himself to his set of effects pedals. AndBilly?
Billy looked great. Wearing a tight black topemblazoned with an elephant, it was like a step back to 1993. Snarling,serenading, posing and even getting out his flying-V guitar for show, his deliverywas immense.
Zwan didn’t simply regurgitate their studio debut.Songs were extended and blended, and little musical inserts enhanced an already visceral experience.
The show highlight came when the band, turning theirbacks to form a circle during Mary Star of the Sea, exploded into fits oflaughter, and hysterical gyrating to the jaw dropping blasts of JimmyChamberlain.
It looked like Zwan saying, here we are, five friendsmaking music and having fun.
They re-emerged for the encore with the fittingSettle Down, during which Corgan raised his hands and vigorously declared:”settle down I’ll settle down, cause whatever I can do I will, cause I wantto,” pointing to his chest before stepping back and launching another guitarassault.
It was clear many in attendance didn’t know the songs- from an album which had been released merely 48 hours ago, after all. Despite this,each song was greeted enthusiastically.
For those devoted enough to get the album on import,it was a treat to be there. More importantly it confirmed Zwan were morethan “Billy Corgan’s band”. Pajo and Sweeney’s constant tussle between lead and rhythm, Paz’senchanting violin, and Chamberlain’s anchoring drumming gave Zwan anextra element which Corgan, regardless of his talent, couldn’t replicatealone.
Ending with the instrumental riff-laden Spilled Milk,Zwan left just as they had entered – five friends making music and havingfun, treating those who care to pay attention along the way.