The 90s alternative scene is now legendary, with no band quite as beloved as The Smashing Pumpkins. With iconic songs such as “Tonight Tonight,” “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” and “Cherub Rock,” the Pumpkins have created music that transcends decades, and is truly one of a kind. The band stopped in Duluth, GA July 22nd for the Shiny and Oh So Bright Tour, featuring an epic 30-plus set list that spanned the Pumpkins’ career.
As soon as the lights went down, the energy in the room was simultaneously excited and hesitant of what to expect from the long-awaited reunion of (most of) the original members of the band. As the curtains parted, bright white light flooded the audience, and Billy Corgan walked onstage to roaring applause, going into “Disarm,” the much loved track from 1993’s Siamese Dream, while photos of young Billy flashed on screen behind him, with captions such as “Broken Boy.” Corgan, or WPC to use his preferred moniker, was dressed in what appeared to be a half-skirt or kilt, a theme of halves making wholes that would continue through the night.
Founding members James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlin joined Corgan on stage for “Siva” and “Rhinoceros,” before planets and stars appeared on screen, and Corgan climbed to the top of a staircase in the center of the stage to begin “Space Oddity,” a cover of the classic Bowie song. Fan favorite “Zero” got fans to their feet, while the gorgeous “33” calmed them.
The epic set was split into threes, with very theatrical and entertaining interludes featuring Mark McGrath (of Sugar Ray) along the way. Things quieted for a beautiful piano set including “For Martha,” and “To Sheila,” also featuring dancers on screen in perfect keeping with the music. All of the albums from the ‘90s got coverage, from the 1991 debut Gish to 1998’s Adore, with several covers in between. “Landslide,” originally by Fleetwood Mac, was my personal favorite, with Corgan putting his own unique spin on the song. “Stairway to Heaven” was a somewhat surprising cover, but the band pulled it off well.
Pumpkins fans might have been a little worn out at this point, but the band pushed on, never losing the ability to captivate the audience. “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning” was a great example of this, as the stage flooded with red light and set the mood. “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” was definitely the highlight of the night, during which the entire venue—sleepy or not—got to their feet to sing along.
Before playing the last song of the set, the band broke its long silence in a completely random way, with James Iha rapping about Duluth and “Hotlanta” with (something of a) straight face. Billy Corgan took the time to truly thank the audience, saying, “literally, emotionally, and spiritually, we wouldn’t be here without you. See you on the other side.”
Overall, the performance was nostalgic, theatrical, colorful, a bit weird, and captivating, which describes the band itself in my opinion. I’d definitely recommend catching this tour, just be sure to bring comfortable shoes, your voice, and an open heart.