The Smashing Pumpkins continue to rock

On Saturday, Oct. 27, The Smashing Pumpkins returned to Boston to rock an audience of long-time fans with tracks from their newest album, “Oceania,” as well as some of their better-known hits from the ’90s.
The alternative rock outfit, which performed at Boston University’s Agganis Arena, was backed up by Morning Parade, a five-piece from Essex, England.
The opener, Morning Parade, took to the stage at 7:15 p.m. and opened their set with “Under the Stars,” the hit single that garnered the recognition of the major record label that signed them.
They meandered gracefully through the majority of their eponymous debut album, ending with “Born Alone,” which singer Steve Sparrow dedicated to bassist Phil Titus. Some audience members were clearly Morning Parade fans, standing for the duration of the set and singing loudly when they knew the words.
Even being more familiar with the environment of secret private shows at underground venues, Morning Parade adapted well to the cavernous atmosphere of the Agganis Arena by utilizing Linkin Park-esque bass synth during “Monday Morning” and interacting with the floor audience in between songs.
About an hour later, the lights were dimming again–this time for The Smashing Pumpkins. Before the band even stepped on stage, the entire audience was up on their feet, cheering with anticipation in the dark.
Billy Corgan, lead singer, guitarist, and the only remaining member of the band’s original lineup, took his place at the front of the stage and was followed by drummer Mike Byrne, bassist Nicole Fiorentino, and rhythm guitarist Jeff Schroeder.
They wasted no time in pattering out the quiet buildup of bass and snare that eventually tore into the distortion-ridden show opener, “Quasar.”
At the same time, a dark curtain that had been hanging above the stage dropped to reveal a massive white globe onto which frantic and colorful images were projected in time with the song.
The band delivered a live performance of “Oceania” in its entirety with the same high caliber quality of the studio version; such consistency is impressive in a time when many bands digitally alter their music so much that live versions take on a different life from their respective originals.
The album closer, “Wildflower,” was arguably one of most unique moments of the show. The bassist, drummer, and rhythm guitarist all left their instruments to stand behind their own individual keyboards, while Billy put aside his guitar to sing expressively, reaching out to the audience and then clasping his hands back to his chest.
Each band member’s hypnotizing keyboard part blended into a beautifully kaleidoscopic interlude, and Nicole’s harmony vocals rose serenely behind Billy’s classically nasal timbre.
No sooner had “Wildflower” petered out than the Pumpkins pleasantly surprised the audience with a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” Nicole counting down from ten while Billy sang “Ground control to Major Tom…”
After this spontaneous departure from their own material, the band doubled back and rumbled darkly into “X.Y.U.,” one of the heavier tracks on their album “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.”
Billy’s ripping screams, a throwback to his younger days, made it clear that he hadn’t left his grungier vocals in the ’90s. He continued to prove this while knocking off hit after hit, like “Disarm,” “Tonight, Tonight,” “Today,” and, in the encore, “Cherub Rock.”
After the show came to an end, we were left wondering why the band had cut out two songs from the set list they’d played at every previous show on the tour–“Stand Inside Your Love” and “Muzzle.”
We met Billy Corgan outside the arena after the show and found out why: he told us that he was on the verge of getting sick; he had to give his vocal chords a break so he could successfully finish the tour.
But, sick or not, there’s no way The Smashing Pumpkins will back down now–even after twenty four years as a band, they continue to shatter the norms of modern music.