Before yesterday’s show, I’d seen the Smashing Pumpkins twice, and both times the band was sadly underwhelming. While the appeal of watching Billy Corgan and a few hired hands play a few kitchy songs I loved in middle school was what drew me in, the product on the stage both times was a bogus, half hearted attempt to present the music that was so important to me way back when. And that’s not to mention when the band went into some of their newer material (yuck).
When news broke late last year that the Smashing Pumpkins were going on a sorta-kinda reunion tour, I figured this would be the best opportunity to experience the band as they might have sounded two decades (plus) ago. No, infamous former bass player D’arcy Wretzky wasn’t gonna be there, and that worried me as I’ve seen The Pixies twice without Kim Deal, and let’s just say it wasn’t great. But there I was, nevertheless, with an open ear and a gut full of booze ready for a good time.
I was a bit confused when Mark McGrath showed up on the big screen in between songs a couple times, but whatever. Not even the singer from Sugar Ray was gonna ruin this fun little trip down memory lane.
While I’d seen them play a handful of these tunes in the past, this time it was very different as Corgan and company enlisted a third guitarist to properly thicken up the chunky waves of distortion to emulate the classic sound from their first two records. For the most part, it sounded really good, despite being amplified in a massive arena. For the record, I’m not big on arena shows — they never sound very good, there’s little to no intimacy with the band, and no matter what, there’s always bound to be a group of dude-bros sitting in front of you constantly high fiving each other like a group of drunken cavemen. Having said that, I had a great time from start to finish as none of these recurring issues were ever a problem.
It’d be easy for me to shit on this show and the tour as a whole and write it off as a “cash grab.” And maybe that’s what this is, but I had a great time swimming in a pool of nostalgia and good vibes for a few hours. The band sounded great, the literally played all of my favorite SP songs, and from my point of view, it seemed like they actually enjoyed performing with one another. While the last two times I’d seen this band play were pretty forgettable experiences, this is a show that I’ll undoubtedly remember for a long time.
Top photo credit: John Medina/Getty Images