Concert Review: The Smashing Pumpkins in St. Paul, MN – August 19, 2018

All photos courtesy Joe Stadele Photography.  All rights reserved.

The Shiny and Oh So Bright Tour is the show many Smashing Pumpkins’ fans have waited 18 years for; a visually stunning and faithful, three-hour marathon through some of the band’s biggest singles, covers and fan favorites. More importantly, it signals the return  of William Patrick Corgan with counterparts Jimmy Chamberlin and James Iha. On Sunday night, The Smashing Pumpkins left a packed Xcel Energy Center salivating for more.

The show was a journey through the original lineup’s story; their beginnings, glories and struggles. After an opening montage of album art, the infamous Siamese Dream girls returned to torch the classic Smashing Pumpkins heart logo. In pitch black, the stage parted to reveal the silhouette of WPC and cast his shadow across the arena. Alone on the stage, Corgan led into Disarm to mass applause. With that, the show began similarly to how many were once introduced to The Smashing Pumpkins; with a song called “Disarm.”

Incredible visuals (courtesy Linda Strawberry) helped tell the band’s story and kept the show in constant motion; imagery of dancers and flappers, heroine nightmares, tarot animations added mystique and contrast, while pushing the songs forward. Interludes featuring Corgan and even, Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath (as a quasi-Howdy Doodee) acted as bookends between chapters. A deified “Zero” character even made the rounds through the audience as visuals played behind the band during “Stairway to Heaven.”  Regardless of meaning, the constant motion kept the eyes of fair-weather fans off their phones and on the stage. (In fact, the lack of phones screens lighting up people’s faces was quite astonishing.)

Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks has said the Pumpkins cover of “Landslide” is better than her original. Including “Landslide,” the band performed a selection of covers to also shift the musical flow of the evening. While the band’s Pisces Iscariot-era cover of the Fleetwood favorite was a huge hit among the Xcel audience, their covers of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” were nothing short of powerful. Corgan deferred to his bandmates to do the heavy lifting. Guitarist Jeff Schroeder shined in “Stairway” with his nonchalant guitar mastery. Multi-instrumentalist Katie Cole beautifully backed Corgan’s vocals, and even took centerstage with James Iha during “Blew Away” and the final cover of the evening, a Hawaiian inspired ukulele “Baby Mine.”

Prince stories are always welcome in the Twin Cities; the more peculiar the better. Leading into “Muzzle,” Corgan and Iha joked about recording with Prince and writing “Purple Rain” and “Diamonds & Pearls” which led to a story. “I met Prince once,” Corgan recalled, “and he was in a tent, in a club. So, you had to go into the tent to talk to Prince…he was in the tent. He was in there by himself.” Iha joked that Prince was “glamping.” Corgan continued, ‘So I went into the tent. He wanted to meet me. I go into the tent and (Prince) goes, “I really like 1979.”’ Corgan recalled as a proud affirmation from the Purple One. club…inside a tent…by himself. All Prince had to say was, “I like 1979.”

The real take away from Sunday night’s performance is simply: The Smashing Pumpkins 2018 are on top of their game. Corgan’s voice sounds great. James Iha’s presence and humor are a welcome return and bring a particular level of laughter, but works to counterbalance Corgan and lift the band as a whole. Jimmy Chamberlin is still a machine behind the kit, yet remains one of the most underrated drummers in music. Guitarist Jeff Schroeder has been Corgan’s right hand man for nearly 12 years and while he may not be part of the original lineup, his guitar mastery has allowed Corgan freedom onstage. The 3 guitar line-up (Corgan, Iha, Schoeder) allows the band to bring their signature wall of sound to the stage. While some “fans” are unable to overcome nostalgia for a certain bassist, Jack Bates has been a great live addition over the last few tours. I have caught three performances on this tour and somehow, this show gets better as the tour progresses.

The Smashing Pumpkins’ Shiny And Oh So Bright Tour is not to be missed. Follow upcoming tour dates here. An 8-song EP is scheduled for release later in the year with plans to release their next single, “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts) in September.

Opening Theme

Space Oddity (David Bowie cover)
The Everlasting Gaze
Stand Inside Your Love
Blew Away
For Martha
To Sheila
Porcelina of the Vast Oceans
Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Tonight, Tonight
Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin cover)
Cherub Rock
Ava Adore
Try, Try, Try
The Beginning is the End is the Beginning
Bullet with Butterfly Wings
Baby Mine (Betty Noyes cover)

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