Photos | Review | Smashing Pumpkins | Boston

Words and Images by: Andrew Bruss

Smashing Pumpkins :: 10.27.12 :: Agganis Arena :: Boston, MA

Full review below photo gallery!

Billy Corgan by Andrew Bruss
Smashing Pumpkins fans came to Boston University’s Agganis Arena to hear Billy Corgan and his band dish out a set of hits, but the real meat of the performance was the complete run-through of the group’s latest release, Oceania. The record is by far Corgan’s finest studio product since 1995, and one could tell the guitar god/frontman enjoyed playing the fresher material more than the classics.

From the monstrous riffage of Oceania opener, “Quasar,” it was clear that Corgan was newly infused with a creative passion that’s been lacking since the Pumpkins’ glory days of the mid-90s. Jimmy Chamberlin (drums) was fired not long after the group reunited in 2007, and James Iha (guitar) and D’arcy Wretzky (bass) have long been replaced by Jeff Schroeder and the D’arcy-esque Nicole Fiorentino.

While fans and critics alike have questioned the use of the Pumpkins’ name in light of the fact that Corgan is the only original member, the truth is that Billy Corgan is the Smashing Pumpkins, and always has been. He wrote the hits, he sang the lyrics, and he even wrote the lead licks Iha played on their most popular material.

Corgan tried going solo without the Pumpkins’ name but nothing really gelled (remember Zwan?). But anyone in attendance at the Agganis Arena would tell you that regardless of who’s backing him up, Billy Corgan shines the brightest as the frontman of The Smashing Pumpkins.

Halfway through Oceania, the quartet blasted into the title track, a nine-minute composition that brought the group into abstract territory not visited since the group regularly encored with “Silverfuck” back in the early 90’s. While the Smashing Pumpkins are still primarily fueled by drums, bass and a pair of guitars, on this tune, the members all performed (at least partially) on matching white keyboards, making the group look more like Kraftwerk than the Pumpkins of yore.

Smashing Pumpkins by Andrew Bruss
Once the Pumpkins finished playing Oceania, they covered David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” before plowing through a set of hits like “Today,” Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” a “Tonight, Tonight” featuring an intro with new lyrics, and “Ava Adore.” An encore of “Cherub Rock” and “Zero” gave the audience the red meat they required, and after almost two and a half hours, the lights rose and the theme to John Carpenter's “Halloween” boomed over the house PA.

Billy Corgan was faced with a dilemma any artist of his stature faces after twenty-plus years of songwriting. Fans wanted to hear the classics, but his enthusiasm was in the new material. The lack of enthusiasm for Oceania was displayed in the undersold venue (playing a college town on Halloween weekend didn’t help) and the relative silence of the crowd during the first half of the show drove the point home.

However, the full performance of Oceania was by far the superior half of the show. Where the second half felt forced, the first was new to the band and crowd alike. It was exciting to hear new material live for the first time, not knowing how the studio product would transition to the stage.

Corgan’s trip to Boston provided his longtime fans with a successful display of his latest compositions while humoring them with a handful of the tunes they know and love. The enthusiasm of the audience may have been underwhelming, but the performance Corgan delivered walked a fine line of freshness and nostalgia that his contemporaries could learn from.

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[Published on: 11/13/12]

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