Billy Corgan and the new Smashing Pumpkins ensemble – consisting of guitarist Jeff Schroeder, bassist Nicole Fiorentino and drummer Mike Byrne – descended on London for a second night at the Brixton Academy for an intimate UK tour of new material and old favourites. The majority of the crowd seemed to be young adults and teenagers getting their first taste of the Pumpkins and the new line up didn’t seem to bother anyone. For the first time since the original line up disbanded, it seems that the Smashing Pumpkins have a sound that gels incredibly well together and the craftsmanship they process is one of a band who have been together for years, not just a matter of months.
The one complaint seemed to stem from the lack of big singles -”Today”, “Disarm”, “1979” and others were missing – which was exactly why this was a show for the most ardent of Pumpkins fans. B-sides from the album Pisces Iscariot, “Starla” and “Frail and Bedazzled”, made the setlist along with Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness tracks “Muzzle” and “Thru the Eyes of Ruby”, and Siamese Dream’s “Geek U.S.A”, “Soma” and “Silverfuck.” Even at 44, the older and balder Corgan showed he could still handle the long and pounding solos, shredding the shit out of the guitar at every opportunity. New songs from upcoming album Oceania and online album Teargarden By Kaleidyscope, included “Quasar”, “Panopticon”, “Lightning Strikes”, “Oceania”, “Pinwheels” and “Pale Horse.” The songs blended between heavy guitars riffs and long solos, prog rock, shoegaze and dream pop, which was the typical mixture of sounds that the Smashing Pumpkins became known for.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest cheers of the night came for the singles: “Siva”, “Cherub Rock”, “Zero” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings.” However, undoubtedly the highlight of the night was the surprise inclusion of “Tonight, Tonight”, making its only appearance on the current tour. It drew the biggest singalong of the night, inciting some passionate screaming with arms aloft; even when played without the orchestra it remained as beautiful and poignant as always. The transition from “Thru the Eyes of Ruby” (which included an extract of “I Am One”) to “Cherub Rock”, into “Tonight, Tonight” and “For Martha”, was an excellent showcase of the band’s altering back catalogue, from head banging and air guitar grunge to moving and delicate singalongs. It was the prefect way to send the audience home happy.
The returned for an encore, covering “Stephen” by Gene Loves Jezebel along with two of the band members, before the audience got what they were waiting for; the angry, fist pumping anthems “Zero” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”, which were full of sweaty mosh pits and teenage angst.
A beaming and grinning Billy Corgan even had time at the end for a bit of US v UK banter with the crowd. Much like Corgan and the rest of the band, the crowd left with grins across their faces. A fine welcome back to the UK for the Pumpkins and a great send off at the same time. Siobhan Gallagher
Frail and Bedazzled
Thru the Eyes of Ruby (plus I am One)
Stephen (Gene Loves Jezebel cover)
Bullet With Butterfly Wings