For many years Chicagoans have become accustomed to experiencing the live show of our beloved Smashing Pumpkins. Faces and names making up the band have come and gone but one thing has stayed the same: Billy Corgan. Tonight at the Allstate Arena was no different. The show was promoted as an intimate theater-style show inside an arena, and that it was.
During Anberlin’s opening act, it was unclear how the rest of the show would progress. The arena was less than 1/3 full when they began their set. From the stage, however, you would never know that the arena was taking its time filling in. The band performed with a large amount of energy and passion. The crowd was not very responsive to the band, which was a little disheartening. I feel that the reason this was the case was that Anberlin and The Smashing Pumpkins do not have many sonic similarities. I consider Anberlin to be one of the top bands in their genre, but they were not the right band to open this show.
Once Anberlin’s set came to an uneventful conclusion, the stage was prepared for the Smashing Pumpkins who clearly was the band all in attendance were anticipating. A personality from WXRT came out onto the stage and got the crowd excited, noting that tonight was a "homecoming" for the Billy Corgan and The Smashing Pumpkins.
The crowd was ready and began to cheer loudly. The curtains behind the back line dropped as the band - Billy Corgan, Jeff Schroeder, Mike Byrne, and Nicole Fiorentino - began the first half of the set, consisting of the band’s new album Oceania, released earlier this summer. The album is part of a larger body of music called Teagarden by Kaleidyscope.
After the first song, "Quasar," Corgan approached the mic to welcome the crowd, which at this point had grown to fill the lower bowl of the Allstate Arena. He explained that the first half of the show would contain Oceania in its entirety, and the second half would be made up of some classics - "if they felt like it."
Visually, behind the band was a giant inflated globe with video graphics projected on it accenting each song. The performance of Oceania lasted about seventy-five minutes, at which time the band brought out the hits. Each song displayed a different approach and set of talents the current lineup of the band has.
The bass playing of Nicole Fiorentino clearly stood out. She performed with class and elegance. Jeff Schroeder has his moment in the spotlight too which included a wailing guitar solo. Mike Byrne is honestly one of the best drummer in rock and roll. His energy is contagious when he performs. He conveys the different feelings within each song dynamically and with finesse and professionalism. It still wows me every time I see him perform, knowing he won the position of Smashing Pumpkins drummer only after an open audition process when he was eighteen years old. Watching him now and how much he has grown since joining Smashing Pumpkins is unbelievable. It is no easy task to fill the shoes of Jimmy Chamberlin and Mike exceeds expectations in that area. And of course, Billy Corgan continues to have one of the most identifiable voices in music.
The second half of the show was one giant interaction between the band and their dedicated fans. Performing classic hits from the band’s deep catalogue, the crowd sang along to every word.
Highlights included a well-received cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" as well as Pumpkins classics such as "Ava Adore," a full on electric version of "Disarm" complete with string backing tracks, "Tonight, Tonight," "Zero," and "Cherub Rock."
The crowd left happy to have seen a quality performance by a Chicago staple. It was clear that it does not take a sold out arena to create a memorable night for Smashing Pumkins fans. It is, and always has been, about the music.
Smashing Pumpkins -- 10/19 Allstate Arena Setlist:
My Love Is Winter
One Diamond, One Heart
Space Oddity (David Bowie cover)
Bullet With Butterfly Wings
A Song for a Son