The Smashing Pumpkins

October 19, 2022


Paulino Mercenari

Created in 1988 by guitarist and frontman Billy Corgan in Chicago, IL. The Smashing Pumpkins broke through into the mainstream along the same time as Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

By this point I felt as if I had gotten my money’s worth. I was being treated to three entirely different, altogether great rock concerts in the course of one night. This time though, it transcended what the previous two had done: beyond attending a concert, I was entering an experience. For the next two hours, the black robe repping, combat boot strutting, wholly bald Billy Corgan took the audience on a journey through the entirety of The Smashing Pumpkins discography. Corgan’s signature voice carried itself through acoustic solos on songs like “We Only Come Out At Night” or even a surprising take on “Tonight, Tonight” that had the entire crowd singing along. In duality, Corgan screamed into life “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” or “Zero” which left me and many other audience members throbbing from all the headbanging. 

Going in line with the personality of the methodically mystifying, self-described “goth vampire” persona Corgan jokes about, he at one point strutted off stage to address technical concerns with whoever must have been the sound guy. Original member of the band James Iha would try to fill up the awkwardness of these moments by talking about the strange nature of Floridians and alligators. Upon Corgan’s arrival back on stage, Iha posed the question:

“What do you think about gators?” Corgan responded “I just want to rock.”

At one point The Smashing Pumpkins performed a frankensteined composition of The Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime.” Corgan pumped the crowd full of excitement for what would come next by reciting the famous first existential lines. On the big screen overhead flashed grids filled in by Corgan making exaggerated monologues. Oh look… sigh, a bunch of Talking Heads. The audience waited in anticipation, and instead, received a bloated, chopped-up, drowned out track that quickly just left everyone confused over what we had just heard. This was understandably the let down of the concert. Thankfully, few other disappointments could have really been measured.

The set design complimented the tone of each song perfectly. At first, crucified scarecrows and shining spotlights were a powerful introduction for the first part of the set where equally powerful songs reigned supreme over the audience. It was almost as if The Smashing Pumpkins were solidifying their entrance through songs like “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” led by the noise of swirling, distorted guitars.

I can admit that a lot of the concerts I attend leave me questioning if I got what I paid for, if my money could have been better spent elsewhere. The “Spirits on Fire” tour is one that in retrospect, I would have happily paid ten times the amount to relive the experience. I was taken back to one of the greatest, most influential eras of rock and able to live it through ear-blasting vocals and finger-bleeding guitar solos, but also in the form of grand, soaring melodies and melancholy solos. Jane’s Addiction and The Smashing Pumpkins are getting older with each year. And last Saturday, I was granted the opportunity to see the legends come alive.

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