wed 21/11/2018

Smashing Pumpkins, Wembley Arena review - Corgan and company deliver the goods | reviews, news & interviews

Smashing Pumpkins, Wembley Arena review - Corgan and company deliver the goods

Smashing Pumpkins, Wembley Arena review - Corgan and company deliver the goods

Nineties alt-rockers reconstitute to shine a light on all the hits and more

Jeff Schroeder, James Iha, Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin: Smashing Pumpkins 2018

A three-hour show? There’s no doubt that The Smashing Pumpkins give good bang for the buck but it’s rare to see a band of this size and stature play for more than two hours in London. So it’s a testament to their back catalogue that at the SSE Wembley Arena those three hours fly by faster than the college years soundtracked by the Pumpkins at their absolute peak in the mid-Nineties. And while frontman Billy Corgan’s toured the band with a younger bunch of musicians, this is the first time that guitarist James Iha has rejoined the fold in almost two decades.

This means songs like “Blew Away” can be revived while the man himself looks Vegas sharp in a bright white suit centre stage. Jimmy Chamberlain on drums remains a master of his kit and space while Corgan, looking not unlike Nosferatu at times, is clearly the king of his domain, with suitably trippy visuals and the odd interlude to remind us that this show was custom-built for US arenas to across Europe, where it’s currently travelling.

While Wembley Arena is no-one’s favourite venue, the sound desk do a great job making the sound sonically clear for the approximately 10,000-strong crowd. At their best, Smashing Pumpkins create virtuoso guitar riffs right up there with Led Zeppelin, especially the songs from Siamese Dream. Tellingly, they cover “Stairway To Heaven” towards the end of the show and it’s the best cover of the night; a gothic take on David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” misfires early on (it’s neither Pumpkins heavy nor Bowie-ish enough) while a sweet take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” is really just that: sweet but not essential, although again, it’s a reminder that like the Mac, this is a band who have suffered drama and pain to almost match Mick Fleetwood’s gypsy folk (Billy is the misunderstood Lindsay Buckingham figure who in this iteration or indeed any other, is impossible to replace).

 And the original songs? The opening thirty-minute salvo is undeniable, from the sharp acoustic Siamese Dream anthems “Disarm” (“the killer in me is the killer in you!”), “Rocket”, “Siva” and “Rhinoceros” to the signature grunge guitar feedback of fan favourite “Drown” from the 1992 film soundtrack to Singles (and that’s five of the seven opening songs). This is a band whose arsenal of songs, certainly up until 2000, was pretty much peerless. And they play most songs a fan might want, albeit peppered with a few they don’t necessarily need, but they’ve also got a point to make. The hits come at the end: “Cherub Rock”, “Today”, “1979”, “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”, then they leave and encore with new single “Silvery Sometimes”, closing with a Hawaiian-style take on “Baby Mine”, as if to say we’re not just soft and heavy, we can do weird and wonderful covers too (The original is by Betty Noyes).

If they can somehow get original bassist D’arcy Wretzky back in the fold for the next tour, every single person at this show would pay good money to hear her sing “Daydream”. Until then, The Pumpkins remain in season.

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