Billy Corgan didn’t exactly retire after disbanding the Smashing Pumpkins last year. Nor did he abandon the melodic storm of punk and classic rock that made that band a force in the ‘90s. The singer-guitarist is exploring old habits with a fresh, almost relaxed attitude with a new group, Zwan.
Corgan is giving an early peek at the group, which includes former Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, in a series of Southern California shows, and at the Galaxy Theatre on Sunday, he demonstrated a willingness to again mix things up. The sound during the 100-minute performance was not the relentless attack of focused anxiety typical of later Pumpkins shows, but frequently paused for moments of reflection.
While the early part of Zwan’s set was dominated by raw, grinding rock, Corgan eventually stepped behind an organ to tap out a soulful ballad that made him sound like anything but a rat in a cage. “I’m a long way from emptiness, so step aside,” Corgan sang. “I like being alive.”
A muddy sound mix obscured Zwan’s finer details, but the song “And So I Died of a Broken Heart” suggested the same blend of fury and melody that the Pumpkins once excelled at.
Both Corgan and guitarist Matthew Sweeney picked out a dreamy pattern for a version of the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down,” which Corgan sang with a strangely casual, offhand feel before igniting the song with a nice solo. And by the time Zwan closed its set with the metal-leaning “Spilled Milk,” Corgan looked happy to be back on stage, sneering his words less in anger than in release.
Zwan plays Wednesday at the Roxy, 9009 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 8 p.m. Sold out. (310) 278-9457.