Concert Review: The Smashing Pumpkins in Madison, WI – November 28, 2018

All photos courtesy Joe Stadele Photography. All rights reserved.

“Madison — my God! Madison, Wisconsin…”
~James Iha
October 4, 1993 was the last time The Smashing Pumpkins performed in Madison, WI. Considering the Chicago-to-Madison proximity and SP recorded their debut album, Gish, at (the former) Smart Studios on East Wash (just blocks away from The Sylvee), Wednesday night’s return was a long time coming. Twenty-five years and a new venue later, The Smashing Pumpkins returned to Madison for their first performance of the new LP, Shiny And Oh So Bright: Vol. 1: No Past. No Future. No Sun.

Wednesday night’s 30th Anniversary Show was more a statement of SP 2018. Over the course of two hours, The Pumpkins kept momentum shifting and packed the set with deep cuts, covers and four new songs; along with the radio hits to fulfill the fairweather fans’ sense of nostalgia. The band performed their cover of Depeche Mode’s “Never Let You Down Again” for the first time since 1995. Just 30-minutes into the set,the band pleased hardcore fans with a crushing rendition of “Dross” (Machina II/The Friends And Enemies of Modern Music), followed by a crowd pleasing cover of The Cure’s “Friday I’m In Love” with James Iha on vocals. New songs “Knights of Malta” and the gorgeous “Travels” also made their live debut.

The only thing missing from the setlist, at least initially, was anything from Gish. “How can we be back in Madison and there is nothing from Gish on the setlist?” razzed Iha to Corgan. Between encores, the band decided to scrap intention of The Cars “Dangerous Type” cover and deepcut “Speed Kills” and retook the stage to punctuate the show with “Siva.”   

The energy of SP 2018 feels relative to that of pre-2000, but happier; perhaps the most joyful shows since the bands’ earlier years. With a tour under the belt, Iha seems to have rediscovered his footing within the band. Iha did a majority of the talking in Madison, while leadman WPC primarily let the music speak for itself. With Jeff Schroeder on guitar, it has also given Corgan the opportunity to take a break on lead guitars while also giving Iha the chance to shine. Then there is Jimmy Chamberlin; perhaps the best drummer in rock. While Jack Bates isn’t an official member, this five-piece is the most cohesive the band has been in 20 years.

Notably, The Smashing Pumpkins return to Madison and the opening of The Sylvee was no coincidence. A venue like this is long overdue for Madison. From sitelines and seating to acoustics and design, it is as if Frank Productions took the best qualities of every comparable Chicago and Minneapolis venue, brought them back home to Madison, and built a venue worthy of SP’s calibre and a venue worthy of Wisconsin’s concert-going community.

While The Smashing Pumpkins’ Winter Tour dates are limited, you can stay up on the latest dates here. Fans in the Los Angeles, CA area can get FREE tickets to their December 11th performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live here. Check out the new LP: Shiny And Oh so Bright, Volume 1 right here.

Never Let Me Down Again (Depeche Mode cover) (First since 1995)
Knights of Malta (Live debut)
Tonight, Tonight
Dross (First since 2000)
Friday I’m in Love (The Cure cover) (Debut cover)
Bullet With Butterfly Wings
Porcelina of the Vast Oceans
Travels (Live debut)
Cherub Rock
Ava Adore
Heavy Metal Machine

Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)

Encore 2:


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