Few bands have dominated a decade the way The Smashing Pumpkins did in the 1990s. Multi-platinum records, seven Grammy Awards, constant play in the MTV video rotation, real rockstar shit. However, as with so many bands before them the pressure of fame got to them and by the end of 2000 the band had dissolved completely.
Singer Billy Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin reunited in 2006, putting out their fifth album as a duo under the Smashing Pumpkins name. What followed was a decade of disorganized chaos, the better part of which saw Corgan as the sole remaining member of the OG Pumpkins. But by 2018 Corgan – perhaps visited by the ghost of albums past – had joined forces with founding guitarist James Iha and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, now in his fourth separate stint as the Pumpkins drummer. The three original members, along with guitarist Jeff Schroder climbed their way back to being arena headliners. All of which brings us to 2022 as the renewed lineup gear up for the release of an ambitious triple LP,
Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Acts, the first release of which is scheduled for this November is what the band hopes will be their revival. They were back in Boston on Sunday night headlining TD Garden along with Jane’s Addiction.
Clad in a long black robe as only Corgan could pull off, the band took the stage, giving attendees a taste of what was to come with the heavy track “Empires” accented with “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”
immediately after. Hard rock on the border of heavy metal would be the theme of the night with some pit stops at a few slower tracks. A riffed up take on the Talking Heads classic “Once in a Lifetime” came
tied to the new wave influenced “Cyr” from 2020’s album of the same name.
While the rest of the ensemble took a breather, Corgan and Iha stripped down “Tonight, Tonight” to two acoustic guitars. But not before Corgan took a little time to wax poetic about how Boston and his native Chicago shared a baseball renaissance thanks to GM mastermind Theo Epstein, whom Corgan noted decided to leave both teams in the lurch after accomplishing his goal of returning the Red Sox and Cubs to championship caliber. He also reminisced about playing at T.T. the Bear’s in the group’s early days.
The set hit a bit of a lull while the Pumpkins rattled off a pair of tracks from Machina/The Machines From God, “I of the Mourning” and “Stand Inside Your Love” during which much of the crowd sat down or ran to the restroom. Everyone rose back up, phones recording as the band went into “Cherub Rock” in what felt like the sprint that follows a long jog as they wouldn’t slow down again until the penultimate song of the set, “Disarm.” Leading up to that they would trade jabs between the old and the new mixing in “Zero,” “1979,” and “Silverfuck with “Beguiled” and “Neophyte.” They ended the night with an unreleased song, “Harmageddon” during which many of the more casual fans left to beat the traffic, ultimately missing a stellar track.
From what’s been heard of the new record, it seems the Pumpkins are opting for a heavier sound on their forthcoming record. As they enter their fourth decade the band seem to have a refreshed energy and drive. On top of that Corgan seems to be genuinely enjoying himself on stage again, as does Iha who spoke the crowd more often that Corgan during the show. Presently the table seems to be set for them to do what so few bands have done and shed the nostalgia act label while completing what would be one hell of a comeback story. The opportunity awaits though, that is if they can manage to stay out of their own way this time.
Supporting The Smashing Pumpkins on Sunday night were alt rock legends Jane’s Addiction, sans Dave Navarro who is sitting out the tour with long COVID. Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen is filling in on the tour and on Sunday night, special guests Daniel Ash and Josh Klinghoffer each came out to do a song with the band. While Jane’s Addiction played their production feature several “adult” dancers performing their routines, combined with some bawdy visuals on a projection screen. This all made for an environment that would probably have been edgy in 1996, but in 2022 really just made many people uncomfortable.