The Smashing Pumpkins’ Shiny and Oh So Bright Tour, billed as a return to form for the esteemed Chicago alt-rock band, is a reunion of sorts. The tour is the first in 18 years to feature the majority of the band’s original lineup, bringing guitarist James Iha and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain back into the fold after years of the Billy Corgan-led group slowly fading into obscurity.
Though the tour has been presented as long overdue fan service, corralling founding members to play songs from the group’s most popular records, it seems to be more of a vanity project for frontman, songwriter and noted egomaniac Corgan. Over the course of the three-hour-long show (yes, three hours), the undersold crowd at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena was subjected to way too much Corgan.
It wasn’t just his face paint or his incessant costume changes. Even the graphics that played out on the screen behind the band throughout the show, almost every single one of which featured an effigy of Corgan, may have been excusable on their own. But paired with the glut of a three-hour, 31-song set list, and his attempts to paint himself as a rock god while covering massive songs by David Bowie and Led Zeppelin, it made for a show that was simply exhausting.
Normally, I’m the guy in the crowd complaining that the band didn’t play for long enough. Meager setlists and bands or artists with a lack of on-stage endurance can be a frequent source of frustration for an avid concertgoer. The Smashing Pumpkins concert in Miami on Tuesday night was an exception to this rule in the weirdest way. It was just too damn much. I don’t need or want all those b-sides, or covers, or lackluster deep cuts. Just give us the hits, please. Isn’t that why you got the original band (minus Darcy Wretzky) back together?
Well, it certainly wasn’t just the hits. It was almost all the songs that the crowd wanted to hear, only they were buried beneath a mountain of filler. Cut the show down from three hours to two, and I give it a better review. Hell, cut it in half, to 90 minutes, let me get home to Boca by 11, and it might even be one of my favorite shows of the year. Alas, this wasn’t the case, and by the time the band returned for a baffling encore, which featured new single “Solara” and a cover of “Baby Mine” from the movie “Dumbo,” the already-thin crowd at the arena, which had to curtain off seats in the upper deck due to lackluster ticket sales, began to shuffle out.
Regardless of how effective the execution of Corgan’s decidedly singular vision has been for this tour, one thing is clear: This was likely the strangest show I’ve ever attended. So many aspects of the show were just so ridiculous that it was difficult to grasp their juxtaposition with the commanding songs that were being performed. Corgan changed costumes too many times to count, and eventually ended up in an outfit that could be described as an attempt to imitate the pope. He played home videos of himself as a child on the screens behind him, and displayed messages to the crowd like “Can’t you see I’m special?” and “I stand out in a crowd.” You can’t make this stuff up.
Despite the evening’s drawbacks, the hits were still the great songs they’ve always been. “Cherub Rock,” “1979,” “Zero” and a handful of others sounded just as compelling as one could hope for in 2018. Each member of the band’s original lineup is still an accomplished and supremely talented musician. Iha and Corgan’s guitar solos were ferocious, and Chamberlain remains perhaps the most underrated drummer of the last 30 years.
The issue is that Corgan’s ego has escalated to the point where a Smashing Pumpkins concert isn’t about the band anymore. It’s not even about the songs. It’s just about him.
5) Space Oddity (David Bowie cover)
8) The Everlasting Gaze
9) Stand Inside Your Love
Mark McGrath Vaudeville Interlude #1
13) Blew Away
14) For Martha
15) To Sheila
17) Porcelina of the Vast Oceans
18) Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover)
19) Tonight, Tonight
20) Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin cover)
21) Cherub Rock
Mark McGrath Vaudeville Interlude #2
23) Ava Adore
24) Try, Try, Try
25) The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning
28) Bullet with Butterfly Wings
31) Baby Mine (Betty Noyes cover)