Whenever any incarnation of Smashing Pumpkins comes home to Chicago, it’s a special occasion, but when singer-guitarist Billy Corgan, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and guitarist James Iha reunited for the first time since 2000, it was nothing short of historical.
Granted, bassist D’arcy Wretzky didn’t complete the core quartet, but along with fellow guitarist Jeff Schroeder, bassist Jack Bates and keyboardist Katie Cole, the band has rarely, if ever, sounded better at a sold-out United Center.
Thankfully there’s a second show coming right around the corner on Tuesday (Aug. 14), because those who made it in the door the night before were treated to a little over 30 tunes hovering at around three hours. Though the group just dropped the single “Solara” in advance of what could be a full album, this reunion of sorts otherwise gave an extremely generous helping of the Smashing Pumpkins’ most popular and prolific period throughout the 1990s.
Naturally, the bulk of material came from one of the alternative rockers' defining albums, Siamese Dream, alongside the sprawling double-disc Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, but the “Shiny and Oh So Bright” Tour was quite comprehensive as far as that entire era is concerned. Die-hards and radio appreciators alike were instantly transported to one of Smashing Pumpkins’ many peaks with Corgan entering all by himself to the jarring strums, commanding vocals and chilling chimes of “Disarm.”
He sounded precisely like he did back then, as did everyone else when they joined for “Rocket,” “Siva” and “Rhinoceros,” each filling the sizable basketball arena with their spacey textures and epic crescendos. The theatrical nature of the show also continued to escalate, eventually finding a cape-wearing Corgan climbing up a staircase to salute the late David Bowie with “Space Oddity,” while video and strobe walls matched the action throughout other major leaguers such as “Zero” and “Stand Inside Your Love.”
There were mellower but no less meaty moments, including “Thirty-Three” (with Chamberlin on keys) or the rarity “Blew Away” (featuring Iha stepping up to the microphone) and that all was packed into merely the earlier portion! From there, the hits and history just kept right on flowing as if Smashing Pumpkins still had something to prove and there were truly far too many gems to even mention.
In other words, the “Tonight, Tonight”/ “1979”/ “Today”/ “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” hit makers more than gave everyone their money’s worth, while prompting them to remember exactly why the word “alternative” will always be synonymous with Smashing Pumpkins. The heavy metal/progressive rock-inspired production (spruced up by today’s limitless technology) was an added bonus, ensuring there were just as many eye-popping sights as there were aggressive sounds throughout this memorable musical marathon.
See photos from Chicago night 1 below.