There was a distinctly mellow, somewhat bittersweet air to yesterday's mini-Woodstockesque Summersault 2000, which was played out before about 35,000 modern rock fans.
On the one hand, while it may be only mid-August, there is always the sense that the dreaded Labour Day weekend looms just over the horizon, biding its time while waiting patiently to kill off summer. (This was proved by the cold rain shower that hit the grounds at about 9 p.m.)
There was also the sobering concern that, if Billy Corrigan keeps his word about breaking up the Smashing Pumpkins, this would likely be the last chance for anyone in the Toronto area to see the band perform live.
And with all due respect to the other acts on the bill, including the Foo Fighters, Eve 6, the Catherine Wheel and festival creators, Our Lady Peace, that in itself would have been justification for battling cottage-bound traffic as well as other festival-goers to arrive at the park three-plus hours after leaving downtown Toronto.
But if this was to be the final hurrah for the Smashing Pumpkins before Toronto audiences, then it was a relatively tame one. There would seem to be two ways of going about undertaking a farewell tour. One would be to treat it like the last day on Earth and expend as much energy as possible -- a sort of "There's no tomorrow so why hold back?" scenario. The other would be to simply say, "Ahhhh, we're done anyway, so why kill ourselves?" Unfortunately this seems to be the approach the Smashing Pumpkins are taking on this short cross-country tour.
Given the festival's prestigious final slot, the band fulfilled their duties with a succinct set that was long on guitar-grinding reminiscent of the '70s, but that only occasionally -- as on the hit Bullet with Butterfly Wings and a surprise cover of the Human League's Don't You Want Me Baby? sung by bassist Melissa auf der Maur and guitarist James Iha -- managed to elicit any real interest. It was all competent enough and Corrigan looked striking enough with his shiny, shaved head contrasting with his long, black robe. But ultimately it was not the defining moment by which anyone would have wanted to remember what was arguably one of the predominant and most influential bands of the 90s.
But that's the nice thing about festivals such as this. If there are minor disappointments, there are also pleasant surprises. In this case, that included a tighter and more aggressive performance than expected by Dave Grohl's band the Foo Fighters with great versions of Learn To Fly, Monkey Wrench and Big Me); a galvanizing effort by the Tool spin-off band A Perfect Circle; and over on the second stage, a purposefully cheesy Kiss tribute by a band that turned out to contain a few members of Our Lady Peace in Kiss drag.
Crowd favourites Our Lady Peace were not particularly spectacular but certainly as professionally competent as they had to be. Their 90-minute set was packed with a bevy of crowd-pleasing hits, including rhythm-heavy versions of Automatic Flowers and Naveed,and with a nice audience-participation version of Star Seed rounding out the set.
On the surrounding hillsides, the vibe was relaxed and positive as the predominantly high-school and college-aged crowd soaked up the sun and sounds for one of the last few times before the inevitable trip back to Business Depot.