There’s something about The Smashing Pumpkins that gets me all nostalgic. It’s not just the familiar songs, it’s Billy Corgan’s voice. I can close my eyes when he’s singing and remember a feeling of an awesome time in my life. If you were a teenager or young adult in the 90’s, Pumpkins fan or not, you are well aware of their hit songs from Siamese Dream & Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. The Pumpkins were one of the most influential bands of the 90’s.
The Smashing Pumpkins Oceania Tour 2012 launched in Madrid, Spain in May & ended in Brooklyn NY, December 10, just 2 stops after Philadelphia. The last time I saw the Pumpkins was in 2007 during their reunion tour, they played at the wonderful and intimate Tower Theater. This Philadelphia show was at the Susquehanna Bank Center (technically in Camden NJ, right outside of Philly) a decent venue that holds about 7,000 people indoors. The Pumpkins stage set up included a massive, moon like globe that could probably light a village and at times displayed some bizarre images. The 45 year old Corgan doesn’t look a day over 30. I had pretty good seats so it wasn’t just me having visions of seeing him 5 years ago. He may not be as lean as back in the day, but he’s 6′ 3″ so it blends in. He’s still sporting the bald look, whether he has to or not, but I prefer Billy with hair like during the Siamese Dream days.
The band performed their latest album Oceania, in order, but half way through Corgan addresses the crowd. He politely told us that they will finish up playing the new album and then he said “If I’m in the mood, I’ll let ya know” then someone from the crowd yelled “play old shit” to which Corgan replied “yeah, play old shit and it’ll be a party.” Phew that was close, Corgan gets touchy when it comes to playing new music.
As The Pumpkins continued through Oceania I couldn’t help, but hear some annoying girls behind me also shouting “play the old shit,” repeatedly. They had absolutely zero interest in the new music. Look, I get it; you come to a show of course you want to hear the classics, but obviously these girls don’t know how it goes. Let me explain, when a band releases a new album they go on tour to promote said album. Standard procedure is, the band plays the new album and if you’re lucky the band will throw the old stuff in at the end. Corgan even took time out to explain this to the crowd, but that didn’t stop these girls from whining, loudly. Regardless of their whining, I was thoroughly enjoying listening to the new stuff. I love Oceania, which was released in June 2012 with favorable reviews & debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200. I found myself shouting “Oh I love this song” when they played “The Celestials,” and “Violet Rays,” two of my favorites on the album. I was pumped and singing along to the songs and as I panned around looking through the audience it looked like the crowd was just as energized as I was. When they performed the final song from Oceania, “Wildflower”, Corgan went off on a guitar extravaganza and slid into David Bowies “Space Oddity” and then ever so slightly, as if prolonging it, gradually went into the first oldie “X.Y.U.” off of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Corgan seemed to be really enjoying himself on this one, and if you know the song, you know how he gets more enraged as he sings. He totally played it up with hand gestures and spitting, like “I’m done with you.”
Okay, so finally the bitches behind me got what they came for as the band went into the hits, beginning with “Disarm,” of off Siamese Dream. I didn’t realize how much I wanted to hear the old songs too until that moment. When they played “Tonight, Tonight,” (Mellon Collie) it took me back to when I first saw the video, when I was dreaming of becoming an MTV VJ. Do you remember how cool that video was? It was dreamlike with Corgan in his top hat in the sky. The video was winner of the MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year in 1996, FYI. Great video, everyone should go watch it now, click here.
Throughout the show Corgan addressed the crowd with playful jokes regarding our football team, The Philadelphia Eagles and how bad they are this season. He also went on to thank us and say that out of all the places in the world he’s performed, Philly is one of his favorites. Now, I’m not naive, I know bands say this often to their audience in whatever city they are in. However, it is known that Philadelphia is a favorite among many musicians. Dave Grohl says it all the time, so there. Corgan was fairly engaging with the audience, of course this came with his usual cynical undertone and if you’re familiar with his character you know he tends to insert foot in mouth. In fact I was very nervous when he went on the whole Eagles rant. Philly may be the “City of Brotherly Love”, but when it comes to sports the fans are straight up crazy.
Towards the end Billy introduced the somewhat unfamiliar faces in the band, aside from guitarist Jeff Schroeder, who has some seniority, joining the band in 2007. The band has a new female basset (Nicole Fiorentino), but for hard core Pumpkins fans she’s no D’arcy or even Melissa Auf der Maur. I couldn’t help, but think as I looked up on the stage how much more awesome it would have been if D’arcy and Jimmy Chamberlin (original drummer) were up there instead of Florentino and their current drummer Mike Bryne. The band played for a little over 2 hours and introduced a new song “The Dream Machine,” as Corgan said to the audience “That’s what we do, new music, we’re not a boy band.” Uh ok, think we knew that. The set ended with my favorite, or I should say one of my favorite Pumpkins songs, “Zero”, but I honestly would have been content just hearing the new stuff. It was a pleasure to hear live the album I’ve been listening to on constant rotation. Corgan, or William Patrick Corgan, as he introduced himself, may have battled with depression and OCD, but he is a lyrical poet. Many people have their beef with him, and his reputation for having a mega ego. I think it may have a lot to do with him being socially awkward, but who knows? I don’t pay much attention to band drama because hey, they’re in a band, haven’t you seen VH1’s Behind the Music? The story is always the same. In the end Corgan’s talent is palpable, with or without the original band members. He was and is the driving force of the Smashing Pumpkins and as Corgan said: “For a 6-foot-3 guy with no hair and a whiny voice, I’ve done alright.”