It’s strange seeing a Smashing Pumpkins show that is being promoted as a reunion since a group of musicians going by the name "Smashing Pumpkins" playing their songs has been touring nonstop for the past few years. But this tour is different in a lot of ways. First, founding members Billy Corgan, James Iha, and Jimmy Chamberlin are touring together for the first time in 18 years. The tours in the meantime have been Corgan and a group of different musicians, and those shows felt like Corgan’s huge ego trip just covering Smashing Pumpkins songs. For the first time in a long time this felt like the band again, the real thing instead of a watered down version.
From the beginning of the set, they looked back and celebrated why people loved them. The show started with a large video screen playing a montage of iconic symbols (like the ice cream truck) and art from album covers (like the iconic woman from the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness cover). To the side of the stage, there were almost 30 guitars that the band used to play through their catalog. They played for what seemed like forever. Their 31 song setlist felt like a greatest hits celebration in the best way. They opened with “Disarm,” and alternated between hits like “Tonight, Tonight,” “1979,” “Ava Adore,” “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and “Today”, fan-favorite deep cuts like “Rhinoceros,” “Rocket,” and “Mayonaise” and covers of songs like David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”
Corgan really seemed to be celebrating the band. He was enjoying it, sounded great, and shared something worth being a part of. This didn’t feel like a death rattle, an act of desperation or a cash grab. It was beautiful, not desperate. The only thing that felt depressing was the undersold venue, which looked to sell around half the seats. You have to assume that if Corgan hadn’t taken Pumpkins Lite on the road for a few years this would have been a sellout.
Each member of the band was able to take some of the focus. At the halfway mark Corgan even left the stage and gave the spotlight to the rest of the band for the Iha fronted “Blew Away.” Once again it felt like Smashing Pumpkins, and not just Billy and some backups.
This tour is a celebration of everything that is beautiful about The Smashing Pumpkins. From the song selection to the stage production to the chemistry between the band members, it is everything that fans hoped it would be. The night was a celebration of the past, but the band’s last original song of the set, their newest, “Solara,” lets us know that the band may not be done with us yet.
Photos by Jason Mastowski for Bullet Music