Tonight’s Smashing Pumpkins reunion show has been a long time in the making. In fact, it’s been nearly two decades since the almost entirely original line up committed to a full touring schedule together, with long-running feuds and irreconcilable differences preventing the band from being in the same room, let alone on the same stage together.
But that hatchet for the most part seems to have been buried thanks to the offer of a extensive show run. The long-broken relationships have been reforged, and so tonight we have in our presence Billy Corgan, James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlin. The only pumpkin short of the patch is founding member and bassist D’arcy Wretzky, who appears to still be somewhat on the fringes of Corgan’s favour, for now at least.
For the thousands of adoring fans whose patience and wallets (tickets for tonight were selling for north of £90) have been somewhat tested, it has without a doubt been worth the sacrifice.
While they may have a new album to promote in Shiny and Oh So Bright, tonight is all about taking loyal fans on a long (three hours) and life affirming road trip into the heartlands of the warm, fuzziness of late 90s rock nostalgia. The vast set cherry picks from the band’s seemingly endless back catalogue that spans everything from the soaring grunge anthems of 1993’s Siamese Dream ('Today', 'Hummer', 'Siva', 'Cherub Rock', 'Rocket') to the orchestral grandeur of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Waiting for the original line up may have tested our patience, but there’s no denying the magic that occurs when the Pumpkins are at full tilt. There’s a ferocious energy and near-psychic tightness to their playing that when in flow in the extended solos on tracks like 'Porcelina of the Vast Oceans' reminds you of the virtuosic power of this band. Grunge by numbers they certainly never were. That doesn’t mean they’re not still capable of the odd mis-step when it comes to this setlist. A rather meandering cover of Bowie’s 'Space Oddity' gets trotted out before the set’s really found its momentum, and almost all gathered would have preferred to hear a dredged from the barrel B-side than a cover of 'Stairway To Heaven' late on in the show, but you can’t fault them for providing value for money.
It would be remiss not to mention the incredible staging tonight. A constantly shifting landscape of glittering and shimmering screens moves about the band like the mechanism inside a giant timepiece. Sun-bleached film footage and pirouetting dancers appear on the vast screens and act as the mesmerising backdrop to tonight’s equally entrancing proceedings. A hammy but humorous Vaudevillian entertainer introduces each ‘act’ giving the show an even greater sense of theatre.
Tonight is undoubtedly a celebration of reunification, and seeing Corgan and Iha standing so close their heads are almost touching as they pick out the intro to 'Mayonnaise' is a magnificent thing, but the show is still very much about one man: William Patrick Corgan or WPC, the abridged millennial handle he now uses.
Dressed in a long, silver man-skirt and with heavy, black eye makeup, he exudes the air of a intergalactic goth-god returning to his home planet to reconnect with his ever-faithful congregation. This cosmic get up is just one of many elaborate costumes that he appears in - the other members remain unchanged throughout - suggesting that WPC is still very much the MVP of this band.
Was it worth the wait? Yes. Was it worth the hefty ticket price? For three hours of note-perfect back to back hits, absolutely.
Does this band and their new material still have a place in the modern rock canon? With only one track from the new album getting a run out tonight, it’s clear tonight was an ode to all that’s come before with only a feint nod to the road ahead.
Do we still want Smashing Pumpkins to keep touring and making music? Damn right.