The Smashing Pumpkins’ reunion tour is more than nostalgia

by Kelly Kerrigan, Staff Writer

In San Diego,  full of blue skies, palm trees and endless summers, the Smashing Pumpkins brought the dark wave of alternative rock that music fans have not forgotten about.

It may not be the ‘90s  anymore, but the Smashing Pumpkins proved that they have not changed a bit over the last few decades. During their three-hour set at Viejas Arena on Sept. 1, frontman Billy Corgan carried the crowd through a melodramatic rock-and-roll show.

The Pumpkins opened the “Shiny and Oh So Bright” tour with a fan favorite, “Disarm.” Photos of Corgan as a young boy flashed across the stage.

“The killer in me is the killer in you,” Corgan sang, taking the crowd back to the band’s enchanting past.

The reunion tour included Billy Corgan, James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin and Jeff Schroeder, who replaced original bassist D’arcy Wretzky. The thirty song setlist ranged from classics “1979,” “Tonight, Tonight” and “Cherub Rock” to ballads such as “For Martha” and “To Sheila” and hard rock jams like “Solara” and “Siva.”

Scattered throughout the performance were a theatrical rendition on David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” an alternative take on Fleetwood Mac’s ballad “Landslide” and a powerful version of Led Zeppelin’s classic  “Stairway to Heaven” compelling the crowd to sing along in complete bliss. The variety of their setlist made it known to the crowd that the Chicago natives are as versatile and talented as ever. 

“The show was incredible,” biology senior Griffin Rechter said. “(The) set was full of over 20 classic Smashing Pumpkins songs. Also, the unexpected Stairway to Heaven cover made for a great addition to an awesome set.”

“We’re so happy to rock,” Iha told the crowd midshow.  “We’re coasting. We’re going to get into the real part of the show in a second.”

Despite the Pumpkins disbanding and reuniting several times over the years, and the drama that continued with the announcement of this reunion tour, they worked in harmonious unison once they hit the stage to reignite their sparks.

In the sea of black T-shirts, jean jackets and dark make-up, the audience made it clear they were ready for whatever the Pumpkins threw their way, even if it included hooded cloaks, a 31-song set or even lectures about vaping.

“Wanna know the secret to our longevity?” Corgan jokingly asked the crowd. “No vaping, but I digress. Now back to the show of sorrow and perpetual disintegration, please enjoy.”

The Smashing Pumpkins’s poetic lyrics exploring depression and enlightenment set them apart from other ‘90s bands that they are sonically comparable to, like Nirvana, Radiohead and Pixies. Nearly 30 years after their debut album, the band’s ability to almost fill an arena and keep the audience entertained for almost three hours verifies that they are still true rock stars.

As Corgan reached out to the crowd during “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” it was apparent that the crowd needed him just as much as he needed them. Throughout the night, the fans’ excitement and acceptance for the band drove the performance into the wonderfully weird and heavy rock show that it was.

The world may be a vampire according to the Smashing Pumpkins, but it’s apparent that that world still sees them as grunge icons.