Nearly 30 years after he first sang about living in the moment in his hit song “Today”, Billy Corgan finally seems to recognize that Smashing Pumpkins are largely a band of yesterday.
The Chicago rocker and his bouncy band did a smashing job playing the nostalgia card on Friday night at the Xcel Energy Center, where they teamed up with fellow big band from their early ’90s era, Jane’s Addiction.
Having Jane’s crew on board—plus flashy art rocker Poppy for a warm-up number (think: Lady Gaga-turned-metal)—benefited the Pumpkins more than just a boost in attendance to over 11,000 ticket buyers.
Corgan & Co. also had to drastically reduce their setup time to around 100 minutes. It was really a good thing after their last concert at the Xcel Center in 2018, a nearly three-hour set in which their cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” wasn’t even the show’s most pumped-up feature. This time around, the Pumpkins largely stuck to their hits and other fan favorites and seemingly embraced their status as a greatest hits nostalgia act.
It was also great to have Jane’s Addiction because – duh! — Jane’s Addiction almost always delivers an electrifying set.
Playing their first date in Twin Cities since the dangerously overcrowded Brick nightclub opened in 2012, the gutter-glam-rock band from Los Angeles have risen to the challenge yet again, even without Dave Navarro. The co-founding guitarist had to pull out of the tour due to long-lasting COVID symptoms.
Navarro’s bandmates quickly proved they could get along without him early in the set during “Ocean Size” and “Had a Dad.” Replacement guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen (most recently on Queens of the Stone Age) nailed the wavy lead and guitar solos of the 1988 tunes. The “temp” made a permanent strong impression in the mid-show epic “Three Days”, also a centerpiece for drummer Stephen Perkins and bass is Eric Avery (the latter’s first tour with the band since the 2000s).
Singer Perry Farrell wasn’t as precise when it came to hitting his old notes. Maybe instead of the three lithe burlesque dancers writhing behind him, he should consider employing a backup singer (like the one the Pumpkins now feature).
However, the cosmically charismatic leader has always carried the torch for his fiery group. He was particularly exuberant later in the set as he led the crowd in mass songs to “Jane Says”, “Been Caught Stealing” and a particularly imposing “Mountain Song”.
While Farrell donned a bright, quizzical look that was part of Howdy Doody and Buzz Lightyear, Corgan stepped out in his usual ultra-dark Uncle Fester appearance, including the black monk cape. He did, however, seem a lot lighter on the mood right off the bat.
The 55-year-old singer smiled sweetly during ‘Today’ – which came second in the set after ‘Empires’. He also appeared to be smirking as he raged through the rat anthem in the cage “Bullet With Butterfly Wings.”
“We are so happy and touched to have you with us tonight,” Corgan said a few songs later, one of many times he addressed the crowd lovingly.
Considerably tighter than 2018, the Pumpkins sounded as monstrous as ever in the heaviest, most manic rockers near the end, including “Cherub Rock”, “Zero” and the full-tilt finale “Silver[bleep].” The show’s best moments, however, were the sweetest and sweetest.
Corgan performed “Tonight, Tonight” accompanied only by guitarist James Iha, who joined the band in 2018 and now seems irreplaceable. The singer and the audience then had their own bonding moment in “1979,” singing lyrics together about growing old without growing old. Both Friday groups are doing well in that department now.
Here are the setlists for Friday’s concert:
- “Kettle Whistle”
- “Size of the Ocean”
- “I had a daddy”
- “Three days”
- “Jane says”
- “Ted, admit it”
- “Song of the Mountain”
- “I was caught stealing”
- “Ball with Butterfly Wings”
- “We only go out at night”
- “Once in a Lifetime” (Talking Heads cover)
- “Ava Loves”
- “Tonight Tonight”
- “Stand Inside Your Love”
- “Me of Mourning”
- “Cherub Rock”