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Photo Gallery: Smashing Pumpkins at Metro • Chicago

| September 22, 2022

Smashing Pumpkins

Tuesday, September 20

Metro Chicago

Chicago, IL

Review by Jaime de’Medici; Photos by Curt Baran

There’s no concert hall more meaningful for The Smashing Pumpkins, and by extension, the band’s fanbase, than Metro Chicago.

Any true fan, and even many casual fans, are almost certainly aware of the band’s extensive history with the northside Chicago venue. On October 5th, 1988, the classic lineup -frontman and singer/songwriter/guitarist Billy Corgan, guitarist James Iha, bassist D’arcy Wretzky, and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin – would play their first show as a foursome at the Metro. (The more bare-bones first ever show under the Smashing Pumpkins name happened a few months earlier when Corgan and Iha, with a drum machine, performed at Chicago 21, a northwest side nightclub.) And on December 2nd, 2000, the original lineup of the band, with Melissa Auf der Maur subbing in for an already-departed D’arcy, played their then-final show, a four-hour emotional rollercoaster all at once epic, exhaustive, triumphant, and absurd. In between were many other Metro shows, including, but not limited to, three nights for the release of Siamese Dream in August of 1993.

The Pumpkins last performed at the Metro on July 27th, 2010, headlining a benefit show for Madina Lake bassist Matthew Leone, who had been severely injured that year following his intervention in a domestic abuse incident. At the time, The Pumpkins’ roster consisted of Corgan, guitarist Jeff Schroeder, bassist Nicole Fiorentino, and drummer Mike Byrne. So to say it’s been some time since a roster close to the band’s classic ‘90s lineup has played the Metro is an understatement.

This past Tuesday, Corgan, Iha, and Chamberlin took to the Metro stage together as The Smashing Pumpkins for the first time since the infamous final performance in 2000. Rounding out the lineup in the present is Schroeder, who’s been with the band since Corgan resurrected the Pumpkins moniker in 2007, along with bassist Jack Bates and vocalist Katie Cole. And while the Pumpkins of 2000 took to the Metro stage to close out the band’s classic era with emotional bombast, and the Pumpkins of 2010 came to the Metro to benefit a courageous musician in need of support, the Pumpkins of 2022 took to the northside stage for one reason and one reason only.

To burn the fucking house down.

Over the course of nearly two and a half hours, Corgan and company delivered a hyper-power set of beloved hits and fan-favorite deep cuts to the lucky attendees who won their way into the free and exclusive Q101 show. Setlist staple “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” remains ominous and threatening decades later, while newcomer “Beguiled,” from the band’s forthcoming 2023 rock opera ATUM, proved lean and mean in a live setting. Another new song, “Empires,” debuted early in the set and confirmed a riff-heavy approach to ATUM. On the other end of the band’s discography, “Snail,” off 1991’s Gish, delivered emotion via crashing guitars and Chamberlin’s pummeling drumming. And mid-set Pisces Iscariot standout “Starla” could have easily been the closer for the night, showcasing both Chamberlin’s thundering percussion and Corgan’s dizzying guitar work at its best.

“Starla” was far from the only expansive and ambitious performance of the night. On a cover of Talking Heads’ “Once In A Lifetime” (a staple of the band’s Machina-era shows), a repeating riff from Bates added menace to the cover, while Corgan’s vocal delivery displayed disbelief and disenchantment. And Chamberlin shone on solos during “Solara” and “Silverfuck,” the latter of course famous for closing out the first run of the band on December 2nd, 2000. Yet it was set closer “X.Y.U.” that finally brought the house down. Immediately kicking in after Machina II’s warm and mellow “If There Is a God” like a jump scare from a horror film, the performance found the entire band in full attack mode, exploding after Corgan’s declaration of “And in the eyes of the jackal I say ka-boom!” like the goal was to blow out the Metro’s PA system.

Yet the night’s setlist wasn’t entirely limited to juggernaut riffs and rapid-fire percussion. Halfway through the night, Corgan and Iha delivered a stripped-down acoustic version of “Tonight, Tonight,” a hometown anthem that’s resonated with Chicagoans for nearly three decades. Another Mellon Collie favorite, “1979,” brought a room of middle-aged alt-rockers back to their ‘90s glory days, while synth-rocker “Cyr,” off the 2020 album of the same name, brought more fun and dancier energy to the night, with the band bathed in blue and pink cotton candy lights. Lost Highway soundtrack contribution “Eye,” meanwhile, added a more haunting vibe to the set, while the band brought a harder rock edge to funkier and playful “Ava Adore.”

The Smashing Pumpkins are one of a handful of acts to perform on Metro’s stage for over four decades. While some artists mellow with age, Tuesday night’s show proved that three and a half decades after the band first graced the stage at 3730 N. Clark, they’re just as hungry and dangerous as they’ve ever been.

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