90’s alt-rock ground-breakers The Smashing Pumpkins kicked off their co-headlining North American tour with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds last month, and I caught their performance at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD. I was there taking pictures from the soundboard and reminiscing my depressingly sad and lonely teenage years. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. The Smashing Pumpkins were one of those bands that oddly comforted me during my rock-filled adolescence, and I was once again comforted by their sound and presence.
The band played amazingly and appeared to be having lots of fun performing for the adoring audience. The stage set looked like it was straight out of an enormous Tim Burton toy chest. There were massive Victorian-era dolls onstage and other strange psychedelic constructs. The stage set complimented the songs, venue, and whole look of the band quite well. Frontman Billy Corgan appeared almost completely enveloped in a long black cape, and had thick black makeup around his eyes. Corgan looked as if he was some sort of dark and disturbed apocalyptic superhero. He proudly adorned an armband with the letters “SP” embroidered on it. He stood stoic and strong as he and the band shredded through some great songs.
The Smashing Pumpkins founding members Billy Corgan (guitar, vocals), James Iha (guitar, backing vocals), and Jimmy Chamberlin (drums) reunited last year and embarked on their first tour together in over 20 years. They also released a new Rick Rubin-produced album, Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1.
I discovered The Smashing Pumpkins when I was about 13 years old. This was before the band released their highly acclaimed major label albums Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. The only album I had was Gish. I loved that album then and still love it now (I also love Pisces Iscariot). I was introduced to the album by a friend’s older brother. I believe he bought the first copy of Gish I ever listened to from Billy Corgan himself. This was back in the early 1991 when Corgan was working at Wax Trax! Records in Chicago, and my friend and I were kids living in northwest Indiana. I was fortunate enough to see The Smashing Pumpkins perform live 3 times in the 90’s. I also caught them at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, Maryland last summer, but I have to say that their performance at Merriweather Post Pavilion this past August was top notch. The band is out there still kicking ass, and they should not be written-off or overlooked.
As you can see, I’ve had a soft spot for The Smashing Pumpkins for nearly 30 years, and they played a sonically satisfying mix of songs for this show. The Pumpkins hit the stage at Merriweather and blasted off with “Today” and “Zero.” The crowd immediately burst with sounds of joy, happiness, and musical redemption. The positive vibes emanating from the band and crowd were equally matched. It was damn near a rock love fest! Lots of intensely warm and fuzzy feelings despite the appearance of gloom and doom.
The set list was filled with classics and fan favorites; however, they did play a couple deep cuts and a beautiful cover of James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain.” No cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” this go around. I’m not all at upset about that either. At one point early in the set Corgan broke into the opening riff of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are.” There was a collective, “holy shit!” from the crowd. Later in the set, during a brief spoken word routine, guitarist James Iha joked with the audience that they were going to play a cover of Van Halen’s “Panama.” Shit. Now that would have been fucking awesome! I’d take a cover version of either song.
Other noteworthy songs The Smashing Pumpkins played included “Solara,” “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” “G.L.O.W.,” “Disarm,” “Superchrist,” “1979,” “Tonight, Tonight,” “Blue Skies Bring Tears,” “Cherub Rock,” and “The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right).”
The tour wrapped up on August 31, 2019 at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California. If you didn’t see The Smashing Pumpkins this year, be on the look at for them in the near future. Both artists on the tour were well worth seeing. Check out The Smashing Pumpkins Official Website for tour dates and other info about the band.
Here are some more photos of The Smashing Pumpkins performing at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD on August 17, 2019. These photos were originally taken while on assignment for These Subtle Sounds. All images copyright and courtesy of Andy Jillson. All images are solely the property of Andy Jillson and Hazy Eye Music Media.
Stream The Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness on Spotify: