Smashing Pumpkins post concert review

Written by on August 27, 2018

The Smashing Pumpkins first tour in nearly 20 years made their Portland appearance on Saturday August 25th. Heavily touring in the early 90s through the first part of 2000s they have a seamless stadium show that lasts over 3 hours. Guitarist James Iha debuting a fabulous pimp worthy white suit warned the audience of the show length after paying for 45 minutes stating “we’ve barely started, it’s just past the very tip of the show” holding two fingers barely apart then spreading his arms wide said, “we’ve got a long show ahead for you”. They maintained great sound quality and provided a big stadium show from start to end.

Each musician continued the Shiny and Oh So Bright Tour theme with black and white costumes accented with shiny reflective fabrics.  Front-man Billy Corgan impressed the very animated Portland crowd with his guitar shredding solos. Almost as entertaining was a man with floor seats who tried to accompany Corgan by air guitaring while holding a fan.

Overall it was a fun show that mixed classic hits to please longtime fans and some of the newer songs to keep things fresh. The six movie theater height video panels often referred to several classic music videos such as “1979” with Corgan behind the wheel and in the back seat while tying in the new artistic imagery with the 30s era styled blonde who visually narrates Smashing Pumpkins lyrics in the passenger seat.

Smashing Pumpkins went for a more artistic approach with highly stylized visuals that vacillated between the avant-garde mostly in shimmering black & white and the vaguely psychedelic with circus/vaudeville overtones in vivid colors.  The stage sets were clearly in the art deco style. Including the pastor like podium Corgan played the piano on atop.

Tarot card and traditionally Catholic religious symbols were overlaid with the face of front-man Billy Corgan and the unnamed 30s era blonde who seem to both narrate and play a savior role.

During their cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” a punk-ish life-size Madonna figure with Corgan’s head was carried up the length of the stadium floor and back to the stage on a Pope-like litter by 4 men in dark robes. All of this highlighted their storytelling abilities connecting visuals with song lyrics.

While some have suggested that Corgan’s image being so prominent on most of the concert and music video imagery is an indicator of his large ego, I wonder if it’s instead connecting their lyrics regarding an ongoing struggle with depression and contemplation of death with religious/god figures condemnation of suicide. Particularly during the song “Solara” when a video of the sun had the words “Love is not all you need” then “I am all you need” in large white font. Which can easily be taken either way: connecting his desire to plunge into death and love’s inability to save him or a simple projection of his god like narcissistic self-image.

Corgan’s final costume for the night was a rocker version of the pope outfit with thin wires forming the tall pope hat and shimmering cloak. Again, this could either be Corgan’s gigantic ego or a symbol of his internal judgement against himself for his addiction and depression issues. Taking the drug laced depression/suicidal lyrics into context, I lean towards the latter.

The Smashing Pumpkins Shiny and Oh So Bright Tour continues. For a listing of cities and dates click here: tour schedule

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