Droves of purple-haired patrons and once punk adolescents-turned-proper-professionals showed up to TD Garden on Tuesday to see The Smashing Pumpkins on their Shiny and Oh So Bright North American tour. Just days away from celebrating their 30th anniversary with a stacked list of musical guests, the band gave Bostonians a 31-song sonic scrapbook recalling moments from their storied career. Frontman Billy Corgan, guitarist James Iha, and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin have reunited for the band’s anniversary tour, marking the first time the classic lineup (minus original bassist D’Arcy Wretzky) has toured together since 2000.
A white light beamed through the small opening between two screens as Corgan’s caped figure emerged from backstage carrying an acoustic guitar. Corgan remained alone on stage to perform a heartfelt acoustic version of “Disarm.” Childhood pictures of the bald guitarist illuminated the stage with phrases such as “no future” labeled on the young boy’s face. This honesty and vulnerability allowed Corgan and company to establish a genuine connection between the band and the arena of middle-aged misfits and outcasts throughout the three-hour set.
Headbanging hits from the band’s illustrious discography composed the next few songs—including a performance of “Rhinoceros” featuring scenes from the original music video—before the band gave an inspired rendition of the late David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” Corgan stood atop a staircase in a silver-hooded cape among artificial stars while channeling the classic Bowie eccentricity for the cover. Stars transformed into psychedelic images on the screen for a building performance of the “Drown,” during which Iha showcased his mastery of the guitar.
The Smashing Pumpkins focused on the fan experience for the concert, recording short clips of theatrical speeches from Corgan to be shown between songs. Corgan clones overcame the screen to rally the rowdy arena of fellow freaks with an intense speech.
“Let’s go back to your beginnings as I go back to mine,” the recording said before the band returned for a raucous rendition of the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness hit “Zero.”
Synthetic sounds introduced “Thirty-Three,” another 1995 classic. Fans yelled the lyric “But in the same old haunts I still find my friends,” to the band to show their appreciation for the band’s authenticity on stage.
The Smashing Pumpkins enlisted Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath to record two vaudeville announcements as brief intermissions for the show. The first was a formal introduction for Iha, who sang the following song, “Blew Away,” sans help from Corgan.
The Chicago-based band members continued to pay homage to the iconic musicians that inspired them along their career with a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” during which thousands of voices joined Corgan in singing the lyrics. The band followed up with “Tonight, Tonight,” which was met with deafening applause before the final, vulnerable chorus.
Iha gave a standout guitar performance during a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” which started with a chilling piano intro from Corgan on center stage. Adding to the mysticism of the song was a strange, lit-up detached church altar rolling around the floor seats. Corgan ad-libbed “Does anyone remember laughter?” after the lyric “And the forests will echo with laughter.”
The Smashing Pumpkins returned to their smash hits for the final songs of the regular set. A McGrath video introduced “1979” as a song that “reminds [him] of driving down the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) on ecstasy.” Corgan returned to the stage in a glittering floor length cape for the song and thrust the arena into the carefree chorus. The band followed with high-energy hits “Ava Adore” and “Hummer.” After performing fan favorites “Today” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” Corgan dedicated the last song, “Muzzle,” to Boston, which he likened to Chicago earlier in the show, stating that both cities have “a lot of drunk f—king Irish people walking around.”
Despite entering their 30th year as a band, The Smashing Pumpkins proved they still have all of the energy and creativity that launched their career with the first song of the encore, “Solara,” which was released in June of 2018. The track featured an impressive hard-hitting drum solo from Chamberlin and was accompanied by a blazing sun graphic on the screen with jabs at clichés written in white, the first being “Love is not all you need.”
The final performance of the night was a somber rendition of Betty Noyes’s “Baby Mine,” during which Chamberlin came out from behind the drums to play the ukulele alongside Iha and the backing band members. Corgan, wearing a bright red morning coat and an intricate mitre-like headpiece, assumed the role of ringleader and reminded the audience of misfits of the unbreakable bond of music in his last act.
Featured Image by Steve Ebert / Heights Staff