Everyone can remember the first time they heard The Smashing Pumpkins. They are one of those bands that immediately catches you off guard. My memories of The Smashing Pumpkins span most of my adult life, from my dad playing Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness in his car on repeat, to news of the band’s breakup and reunion, to singing “Tarantula” while waiting tables in college. Seeing The Smashing Pumpkins perform last Sunday at the Gibson Ampitheater brought all those beautiful memories flooding back.
Upbeat, impressive rock band Anberlin opened the show, performing songs from their recent fan-approved album Vital, filling the six thousand-seat theater with a collection of hopeful, grandiose alternative rock. Singer Stephen Christian was a hurricane of energy while performing tracks off their latest release as well as staples such as “Paperthin Hymn.” Bassist Joseph Milligan recently spoke to the LA Music Blog about how surreal it was to open for The Smashing Pumpkins, and they undoubtedly did the headliner proud.
Touring in support of their eighth studio album Oceania, The Smashing Pumpkins greeted a sold-out audience last Sunday by playing their newest record in full. The psychedelic rock release kept in step with the band’s inability to be confined to one musical genre. Despite singer Billy Corgan being the only remaining member of the original lineup, the group played with a fervor that kept diehard fans singing all night. All the musical elements that skyrocketed The Smashing Pumpkins’ unique sound to international fame were present: dramatic musical arrangements with incredible musicianship and Corgan’s compelling voice over top.
The thirteen-track Oceania was laid out for fans in its full glory, ranging from the emotional “Violet Rays” to the futuristic, synthesizer riff-driven “One Diamond, One Heart.” The band perfectly recreated the powerful build up and slow burn of “The Celestials” and “My Love Is Winter” live. A wall of sound greeted the audience song after song, equal parts crunching guitar, proficient drumming, and husky female backing vocals provided by bassist Nicole Fiorentino.
While being enveloped by Oceania, I realized there’s no better way to fall in love with a band’s new album then by seeing it performed live. No songs seem added to round out a track list. Every song is meaningful, has its own personality, and tells the story of the album (or in Oceania‘s case, a record in the middle of a larger 44-song concept piece).
There were pulsating light shows during the lengthy jam sessions, teetering on the edge of a delightful sensory overload. A larger than life, glowing, futuristic sphere floated above the group displaying trippy images ranging from the scientific (space, radar, anatomy) to geometric patterns (of shapes, colors, eyes) to unforgettable music video elements, adding a visual layer over the compelling music.
After the album’s completion, Corgan thanked “familiar faces” and announced the beginning of “dusty classics,” which caused the audience to erupt into applause. He joked that they’d play other albums popular during The Smashing Pumpkins’ early days, saying, “Then we’ll play Dookie, Ten and Songs from the Superunknown.”
Before appeasing the die hard fans with classics, the band performed a gritty cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” The Smashing Pumpkins then switched gears to their softer, more orchestral side with “Disarm” and “Tonight, Tonight.” “X.Y.U” and “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” featured heavy double bass drum and deafening screams, both from Corgan and the audience.
The band joked about how most members had homes in Los Angeles (although Corgan noted he was being sued due to a tree on his property falling onto his neighbor’s house). Corgan thanked “the satanists and heathens in Los Angeles” for coming out, and the crowd approvingly cheered in response.
“Song For A Son” was dedicated to Corgan’s father and bled into long, impromptu guitar solos demonstrating Corgan’s expertise for his instrument. The legendary group closed with some of their heavier tracks, including “Cherub Rock” and “Muzzle.” It may have been a while since The Smashing Pumpkins exploded onto the scene, but they are still performing their unforgettably powerful rock songs with a dedicated spirit that suggests devoted fans need not worry; there’s much more in store for The Smashing Pumpkins.
The Smashing Pumpkins Set List:
03. The Celestials
04. Violet Rays
05. My Love is Winter
06. One Diamond, One Heart
09. Pale Horse
10. The Chimera
14. Space Oddity (David Bowie cover)
17. Tonight, Tonight
18. Bullet With Butterfly Wings
19. A Song for a Son
21. Cherub Rock
22. Ava Adore