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Concert Reviews, Music

The Smashing Pumpkins’ Expansive Set Kept Afloat By New Material in Toronto

Words by: Adam Harrison | Photos by: Curtis Sindrey

Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. October 25, 2012. (Photo: Curtis Sindrey)

Currently touring with yet another version of The Smashing Pumpkins, the band is touring in support of their latest album, Oceania. Billy Corgan and company made a stop at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre last night and packed a lengthy set list with them.

Opening the evening was Morning Parade, an alternative band from Essex, England. Grateful to be sharing the stage with the legendary Pumpkins, Morning Parade played a handful of songs from their debut self-titled album. The band interacted well with the crowd, but none of their songs really stood out. They still managed to do a respectable job of warming the audience up, given two of their five members were held up at the Canadian border.

One of the most important aspects of the Smashing Pumpkins’ current tour is that the show is split into two sets. The first being Oceania, played in its entirety, and the second being a selection of classics. This decision didn’t seem to be a popular one, first evidenced by the more than half empty seats in the stadium. In addition, the roughly 9,000 fans that were in attendance remained seated during the first half of the show, seemingly wondering when they’d get to relive their grungy ‘90s high school days. Corgan, knowing what everyone came for, showed off some witty sarcasm “I see a lot of young faces tonight; they’ll probably be bored during the old stuff.”

Nicole Fiorentino of Smashing Pumpkins at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. October 25th, 2012. (Photo: Curtis Sindrey)

The show appropriately opened with the leading track, “Quasar” with some nice guitar work from both Corgan and Jeff Schroder, who joined the band in 2007 and is currently their longest running member, other than Corgan himself. They then continued through the album, the strongest tunes from this part of the set were “The Celestials”, “My Love is Winter”, “The Chimera” and “Inkless” but none of them gained much reaction from the audience.

A 28-foot sphere floating above the band with video mapping of imagery designed by Sean Evans (best known for his work with Roger Waters’ The Wall Tour) made for some magnificent visuals. The graphics were specifically created to match up with the Oceania album and occasionally became a distraction to the songs being played.

The transition from the new to old material included an interesting but well done cover of the David Bowie classic “Space Oddity.” The audience welcomed it, but maybe it was just a sigh of relief to a song they actually knew. The Pumpkins then finally reached into their old inventory, but with another strange choice of “X.Y.U.”, a lengthy tune from the back half of the second disc of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. It wasn’t until the following tune that we got our long-awaited greatest hit, in the form of “Disarm,” which finally had the fans on their feet, 80-minutes into the set list. The following hour consisted of mostly crowd-pleasers and included tracks such as “Tonight, Tonight”, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and “Stand Inside Your Love.”

Mid-way through the classic set, Corgan took a break to share some dialogue with the audience and fellow band mates, Schroder and new bassist, Nicole Fiorentino. Known for being a bit of a heel, Corgan asked, “How’s the hockey season going this year?” before redeeming himself by confirming hockey city has held more Stanley Cups then the current champion, L.A. Kings, and reminiscing on old shows at Maple Leaf Gardens. He also took the opportunity to plug his wrestling league, Resistance Pro, and give a shout out to Toronto’s own wrestling superstar, The Edge; a reference that seemed to go over most audience members’ heads. At one point during this extended speech, a cheeky audience member yelled at Corgan to get on with it, in which he jeered, “That’s ok, I can go back and watch the World Series, the Blue Jays are in that, right?” He finally returned to the set list with a song appropriately dedicated to his father, “A Song for a Son”. Another drawn-out tune, and one that came out only three years ago and received very little charting success, a questionable choice for a “classics” set.

The band itself is quite impressive. Corgan proved several times over that his voice has remained intact and that he could growl and moan like it was still 1995. They seemed to be a surprisingly tight unit given their short history and experience together. Their new drummer, Mike Byrne, is only 22-years old and joined the band when he was 19. “He was working at McDonald’s when I met him,” said Corgan.

Although enjoyable, the show ultimately left some fans asking “Why?” I can understand Corgan’s resentment in having to play the same songs for the last 20+ years, and being fair to his new band in giving them the opportunity to play the music they helped create. The set breakdown will definitely be the victim of much criticism, but Corgan and company proved that nostalgia wasn’t about to make an appearance on this tour and that the only way to look is forward.

Smashing Pumpkins Set-List

  1. Quasar
  2. Panopticon
  3. The Celestials
  4. Violet Rays
  5. My Love Is Winter
  6. One Diamond, One Heart
  7. Pinwheels
  8. Oceania
  9. Pale Horse
  10. The Chimera
  11. Glissandra
  12. Inkless
  13. Wildflower
  14. Space Oddity (David Bowie cover)
  15. X.Y.U. (with Voodoo Chile tease)
  16. Disarm
  17. Tonite Reprise
  18. Tonight, Tonight
  19. Bullet With Butterfly Wings
  20. A Song for a Son
  21. Today
  22. Stand Inside Your Love
  23. Muzzle
    Encore:
  24. Ava Adore
  25. Cherub Rock
  26. Zero

Morning Parade Set-List

  1. Close To Your Heart
  2. Carousel
  3. Us & Ourselves
  4. Half Litre Bottle
  5. Headlights
  6. Under The Stars

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