TSB Arena
March 20 | Reviewed by Tim G

TONIGHT, I forked out an over-inflated ticket price purely for old times sake, predicting a personal nostalgia trip in the Smashing Pumpkins. The teenage emotion once felt whilst listening to a dubbed version of Siamese Dream would all come flooding back and it would seem like 1998 again. Yet, my hope to be transported back to my 14-year-old self never quite transpired.

Queens of the Stone Age were already playing by the time we arrived. This was disappointing and bemusing as it was barely past 7 o’clock, but the songs caught were typically sweet. They played a mean set, which included ‘Go with the Flow’, ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’ and a powerful ‘Do It Again’. The band seemed low key but their songs thudded along in characteristic coolness. ‘Sick sick sick’ from their new album slotted in nicely with set highlight ‘Little Sister’ and climax ‘No One Knows’. Homme informed the crowd that Queens would be partying after the show and that they too were “drinking, smoking, mother fuckers,” epitomising Homme’s coolness. The stripped back QOTSA show was direct contrast of what was to follow.

It’s debateable as to whether Billy Corgan is the Smashing Pumpkins and its legacy, but tonight the two original members were the stars of the show. They opened with a tune from Zeitgeist, their latest album, which was powerful enough but I felt detached from it, as I did from most of their new work. Billy was dressed in a Machina-era PVC dress and a bizarre Lycra top. Whilst he was true to eccentric roots, without D’Arcy and James Iha on the flanks, it really felt like the Billy Corgan show. Chamberlain was an animal on drums especially during the newer songs but it still didn’t quite feel like the old band I’d grown up with. That’s not to say there wasn’t a healthy dosage of old classics. ‘Tonight Tonight’ was a moving highlight. ‘Today’ provided a sing along anthem, while ‘Mayonnaise’ and ‘Hummer’ gave old fans a glimpse back into the Siamese Dream era.

Corgan seemed energised and bounded around the stage all night, his singing amazing; he also hogged lead guitar duties, making the rest of the band seem almost insignificant. It may have seemed narcissistic, but it was Billy Corgan. His self-indulgence climaxed with a ten-minute feedback laden jam with Chamberlain with a messy 'Star Spangled Banner' mixed amongst gnashing riffs. It was okay; nothing amazing but it was definitely Corganesque.

His solo renditions of ‘1979’ and ‘Perfect’ were cool, if only for sing-a-long value. A sped up ‘Ava Adore’ and ‘Everlasting Gaze’ provided the real rocking moments of the show, and ‘Zero’ was a notable omission. The newer and slower songs floundered somewhat and the set seemed to drag overall. The last song of the night was a surprise in the form of ‘Thirty-Three’ from Mellon Collie. It worked well and was perhaps the highlight of the entire set.

Tonight’s show wasn’t a nostalgia trip as much as a chance to see a man who for all his eccentricities created some of the most poignant music of the 90s. The show was pompous but fun. Was it the Smashing Pumpkins I had wanted to see for over a decade? Not really. But I don’t begrudge his over inflated ego either. What else would you expect from Mr Corgan?

See also:
» Smashing Pumpkins in London (Reviewed by Ewan Kingston)