Concert Reviews

The Smashing Pumpkins with Metric at the Scotiabank Arena

Photos by Jerome Joyce

It was a dark and stormy night… Quite literally. By the time the band took the stage on Wednesday at Scotiabank Arena (formerly Air Canada Centre), a torrent was building outside. It was the ideal atmosphere for a band like the Pumpkins, perfectly accenting lead singer Billy Corgan’s oscillation between snarling demon on songs like “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and prophetic angel on the band’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”. They may call this the “Shiny and Oh So Bright” tour, but I assume this is a subtle stab of humour – The Smashing Pumpkins are far from losing their sinister edge.

If you aren’t aware, one of the things that makes this particular tour special is that, for the first time since 2000, nearly the whole band has reconvened (sans bassist D’arcy Wretzky). Jimmy Chamberlin, drummer, played an incredible set, with some particularly amazing drum solos, especially during “Siva”. And while Chamberlin has been in and out of the band a few times since the breakup, guitarist James Iha returned for the first time in fine form. He ended up doing much of the talking and interaction throughout the set, and has not lost an ounce of charisma in all these years. Together with touring keyboardist Katie Cole, he performed an incredible rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” midway through, and just generally was a much appreciated island of stability throughout an otherwise outlandish and fantastical set.

At the center of it all is Corgan, the idiosyncratic frontman holding the motley crew together. Having apparently shelved his [opinions about reunions], he came out swinging with a solo acoustic rendition of “Disarm”, before welcoming his compatriats to the stage for an exhaustive tour through their pre-2000’s discography. Hitting on all of their major singles and rarer cuts like “Blew Away”, they made it clear this was a show for the audience first. They even snuck a beautiful cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in, with Corgan playing a piano 10 feet above the stage in what I can only assume served to add a metaphorical layer to the piece.

And yet, for the extensiveness of the set, Billy barely spoke a word to the audience between songs. He broke his silence only before the very last set of songs – to go on a 5 minute tangent thanking Canada for Rush. While it was very amusing, and while I worry what sort of other topics he may have gotten into given more time, I could have used a bit more audience interaction from him. Based on the way the crowd roared whenever he did something cool, you could tell he would have had us in the palm of his hand.

Regardless, it was an excellent show, punctuated with all manor of wondrous visuals and moving set pieces. Giving justice to the visuals of the show with mere words is impossible: check it out and see for yourself. If you’re a long time fan, this one is definitely for you.