Smashing Pumpkins bid farewell in venue where they began 13 years ago

CHICAGO - Returning to the same small venue where they debuted as a band 13 years ago, The Smashing Pumpkins bid farewell to their fans with a blistering four-hour collage of songs that have made them one of the most definitive bands of the past decade.

The finale at the 1,100-person capacity Metro on Chicago's North Side was one of the hottest tickets of the year, selling out in 20 minutes on Oct. 21 with almost as many tickets bought outside the continental United States as within.

Hundreds had lingered around the club for days in hopes of snagging a ticket and getting a last look at the band that has sold 17 million albums since its first, ''Gish,'' in 1991.

The Pumpkins, led by singer-songwriter Billy Corgan, opened Saturday's concert with the powerful ''Rocket,'' establishing the tone for the first of three sets and inspiring the audience to jump in unison and go crowd surfing.

The second set opened with the beautifully mournful ''Muzzle'' from the ''Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness'' album - featuring more introspective work, much of it from the band's later albums. After a driving third set that again put the crowd in motion, the band followed with three encores.

Fans were sent home with more music - a compact disc recording of their first concert at the Metro on Oct. 5, 1988. The CD is only 38 minutes long because that is all the material the band had compiled since Corgan and guitarist James Iha met earlier that year in a Polish bar on the city's Northwest side.

The band continually kept fans and the music industry guessing, evolving in style with every new album.

And with their last effort, ''Machina II: The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music,'' the Pumpkins shocked the industry again, releasing the album on the Internet free of charge as a gift to listeners.

Joe Shanahan, who owns the Metro, said Corgan compiled a huge catalog of material, sometimes writing five or six songs a week.

''They brought me a demo tape with four songs and it was like nothing else out there - it was heavy metal, Goth, pop - and it all came from a tall, lanky, artsy guy whose voice was angelic and kind of like a banshee at the same time, a mellow Japanese guy on guitar and this hippie-type girl,'' Shanahan said. ''I told them if they could find a drummer, they could really make it in the Chicago scene. Pretty funny, huh?''

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On the Net:

Pumpkins: www.smashingpumpkins.com

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