The Scene: On my way up to the 1stBank Center, I began to actually get excited for this show. I never really “got into” the Smashing Pumpkins, but after hearing about the massive globe that would be hanging over the stage, and the songs they would be playing, I figured the show had a lot of potential.
I had listened to the new album, Oceania, a few times, and dug it, (although I have to say it is hard to stand next to the stature of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness or Siamese Dream) and I figured since the show was at a 6,500 venue, that the visual display and energy of the large crowd would be quite enthralling. Upon walking onto the floor of the venue, my mood quickly changed. The stage had been moved to the middle of the arena floor, and the rest of the area was simply blocked off reflecting meager ticket sales. The capacity of the venue was shrunk down to around 2,000, and my expectations were minimized as well. There are many reasons for the strained relationship between Billy Corgan and his fans, but since I never really was one, he and I were starting fresh.
The Smashing Pumpkins: After some Christian based screamo from aging Anberlin, Smashing Pumpkins took the stage in front of a small yet eager and supportive crowd. Although the Pumpkins’ line-up may look like the “original,” its names have all changed except for Corgan. Over the quarter century long history of the band, the one thing that has stayed the same is constant change, and Corgan jokingly acknowledged that fact. There is still a sexy female bass player, Nicole Fiorentino, a guitarist with Asian features, Jeff Schroeder, and Mike Byrne is now on drums. I have to admit that I thought it was kind of cheesy to seek out a lineup that physically looked like the original, but after hearing them play, I quickly decided it didn’t matter. The band was tight, and so was Fiorentino’s shirt, but her fortitude on the Bass stood out as much as her womanliness.
I had heard the day before that The Smashing Pumpkins were going to play their new album, Oceania, in its entirety and in order, for the first part of the show, and then Corgan would humor us by playing the hits. Corgan announced this info at the beginning of the show, and I don’t think many were hip to the fact before coming, nor really stoked about it. The energy and moral was already lacking in the audience on account of the small crowd in the large venue, and many lifelong fans weren’t connected enough to the new album to be really excited to hear it all live. Again, since I never really connected deeply to the Pumpkins, I thought it was a great idea. It was like Corgan was proclaiming that if you want the old me, you gotta hear the new me, and support all of it.
The opening “Quasar” was accompanied by bright lights and psyche penetrating projections that matched the intensity of the sound. The Smashing Pumpkins are still loud, that’s for sure. The slow, melodic, and romantic “One Diamond, One Heart” took it down a notch, and “Pinwheels,” “Oceania,” and “Pale Horse” helped it stay there. Schroedder started shredding on “The Chimera,” and we really got to see what this man is made of. Once the album ended with “Wildflower,” the party began. Let’s be clear about one thing: In no way am I saying that Oceania is not a good album, in fact, I think its great, and have been listening to it quite a bit, but it is new and the point is, the hits just made us feel better, and made me realize I have grown older alongside Corgan and his creations.
The Pumpkins started the second portion of the evening off with a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” before we traveled through the celestial catalog of Corgan’s work. We all basked in the memories “Tonight, Tonight” conjured up, and I danced so hard to “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” that I think I might have pulled something. The driving bass of “Ava Adore” combined with the intense lights sucked me right in before they silenced the night with “Muzzle.”
Driving home in a windstorm that felt apocalyptic with its darkness and force, I thought just how great an artist Billy Corgan is. He is truly his own person, to a fault, and I would say that if he wanted to be playing to 35,000 people again, he could. All that said, I would have loved it if they just played “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” over and over again…but I probably would have had to leave on a stretcher.
Stage Presence: A
Set / Light show: A+