TORONTOâ€”On a night that was supposed to be about returning Pumpkins that Smashed, Sunday’s Virgin Music Festival in Toronto turned out to be all and only about The Killers.
The Las Vegas quartet who have said that The Smashing Pumpkins were one of their musical influences easily outdid their returning muses by electrifying the crowd with new and old hits alike, and served as the final act before Billy Corgan et al took the stage.
Frontman Brandon Flowers, sporting a new “moustache,” seemed especially into the performance, belting out the last song with as much energy and gusto as the first.
This was in sharp contrast to The Smashing Pumpkins’ ho-hum performance, which clearly did not live up to the hype of the more than 25,000 fans in attendance. Despite a brilliant set-up with bright lights swirling around them, the Pumpkins’ set opened with what seemed like a game of Guitar Hero as the band basically just seemed to play instrumental riff after riff. It was almost as if they were practicing in a garage instead of in front of Toronto’s biggest music crowd of the year. Although the band started slow, slight shades of their former selves began to shine with their unique rendition of the Canadian national anthem and an uptempo version of “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”. The crowd’s pleas for “Tonight, Tonight” were finally answered midway through the performance and this finally seemed to win over festival attendees who had waited seven years to hear the band again. Although James Iha and Melissa Auf Der Maur did not participate in the reunion, new band members Jeff Schroeder and Ginger Reyes did a better-than-you’d-expect job in replacement. Jimmy Chamberlain was flawless as usual on the drums.
The festival showed remarkable improvement from its inaugural edition last year. Every act hit the stage at their allotted time (or as close to it as you could get) and the organization of each of the four stages was perfect.
In addition to the Killers, one of the weekend’s highlights was the Bacardi B-Live stage, which featured a nightclub environment, dance music and some of the top DJ’s around. This was designed as an alternative and intentional option for any non-rock fans in attendance at the Virgin Music Festival, according to Bacardi Canada group brand manager Lisa Jazwinski.
“To put ourselves at V-Fest, where we are definitely very unique from everything, we stand out from the crowd,” she said.
Jazwinski explained that there was a specific focus for the stage which featured sizzling performances from Princess Superstar (pictured above) on Saturday and Sean Miller and Dirty Vegas on Sunday as well as free samples of Bacardi’s signature mojito.
“The entire concept is having an area for the audience to experience both amazing musical talent, sensory overload (not just from the music but from visuals that are choreographed with the music) and expert cocktail mixology,” she said. “For B-Live at V-Fest, it’s all about giving the audience at V-Fest another experience that is very unique to the whole V-Fest environment.”
Other acts that played on Sunday included The Constantines on the Future Shop stage, and The Red Romance and The Postage Stamps on the Budweiser platform.
Acts that preceded Sunday’s The Killers and The Smashing Pumpkins on the main stage included Metric, Stars, Tokyo Police Club and Louis XIV. All delivered standout performances and the Festival did not seem to suffer at all from the loss of Amy Winehouse who cancelled all North American appearances earlier this summer.
The rumored rain that was supposed to arrive never really got started and just like the entire weekend, it appeared that everything happened without a hitch.
The Virgin Music Festival returns to Toronto next year.
(Pictured: Smashing Pumpkins, Princess Superstar Photo Credit: Carrie Musgrave, Bacardi)