I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again
Billy Corgan is a strange bird, but he plays a mean guitar!
On their Shiny and Oh So Bright tour, the Smashing Pumpkins made a stop in Omaha Monday night (8/20) at the CenturyLink Center. Playing to a pretty packed room, the band covered material from their first five albums, played several covers, and even a brand new song they recently recorded with Rick Rubin “Solara”.
This tour is the first to bring together original members Billy Corgan, James Iha, and Jimmy Chamberlin since the mid 2000s. The last time Smashing Pumpkins made an appearance in Omaha was October 2011 at the Slowdown. Unfortunately, I was at that show and let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty. James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlin were not there. The only member of the original Pumpkins line-up on stage that night was Billy Corgan.
I’m not sure if it was because Billy’s new band mates weren’t familiar with the old Pumpkins catalog, or because Billy is a bit of an egomaniac, but there were only two older songs played. The rest of the set was completely new material from a Smashing Pumpkins concept album that Billy cooked up, which prominently featured long-winded guitar solos and cryptic lyrics.
So going into this show I had really high expectations that it would be much better than the last time the Pumpkins were in town. Billy and company did not disappoint. It’s not to say that the show was perfect, (chairs on the floor, really?) but it blew the Slowdown show out of the water!
The band Metric from Toronto opened the show playing 45 minutes of indie synth rock. There were a few people on their feet, but the majority of people just sat staring at their phones. I noticed one young lady dancing all by herself in the fourth row center. I asked her after Metric’s set if she had seen the band before. She said she hadn’t, but they are in constant rotation on her alt-nation Spotify station so she was really familiar with the songs. When the band started playing she just had to dance even if she was the only one in the room doing so. Right on! I let her know that if it was one of my favorite bands there would be nothing stopping me from going nuts no matter how weird I would look.
After Metric played giant black curtains swooped across the stage to cover all of the elaborate set pieces being setup in preparation for the mighty Pumpkins!
A very short time later, the curtains opened to reveal two giant screens that were displaying a sky full of stars. The crowd roared as an ice cream truck floated across the sky followed by a moon and a sun. More images from Smashing Pumpkins first five albums continued to flash on the screen until finally a video of the two girls from the “Siamese Dream” cover art (then only 5 or 6) now adults, used a flamethrower to light up a large Smashing Pumpkins sculpture. Slowly the screens parted and Billy Corgan emerged with an acoustic guitar and black war paint on his face.
“Disarm you with a smile and cut you like you want me to!” the crowd sang as pictures of Billy as a child flashed on the screens behind him. I thought this was a really great way to kick off the show. The pictures of Billy really helped capture the emotions of the song.
Following “Disarm” the full band emerged and played old favorites like “Rocket”, “Siva”, and “Rhinoceros” before switching the stage setup for a cover of “Space Oddity”. Billy, completely clad in silver, including a cape and hood, walked to the top of a staircase and pointed to the sky in remembrance of the late great David Bowie. They were really rocking on this one. I thought they did an amazing job and Bowie would be proud.
After the Bowie cover, a few more hits were dished out including “Zero, “The Everlasting Gaze”, and “Stand Inside Your Love”, but one of my absolute favorites was around the corner in the form of “Thirty three”. Billy and company softly swooned as lyrics played across the screens behind them.
It was at this point in the show my attitude towards the chairs actually turned a bit. The next few songs were really slow and Billy took every extra second to do some overblown guitar wankery that I didn’t really feel was necessary.
However, as soon as the opening notes of “Tonight, Tonight” filled the room I was on my feet moving and singing along. I think that was the highlight of the night for me. I wanted to hear “Tonight, Tonight” so badly when I saw Smashing Pumpkins at Slowdown and I was really bummed when it didn’t happen. I’m glad I was finally able to hear it live. It was totally worth the wait!
The band went on to play for almost another hour covering much more of their first five albums, even pulling out Fleetwood Mac and Led Zepplin covers!
Overall, it was a pretty good time. Levels above my previous Pumpkins experience, but far from the arena rock experience of a Muse or Aerosmith show.
Now that the majority of the band is back together, maybe we’ll see a new album in 2019 or 2020. Let’s hope Billy can keep his ego in check!
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