Listen To This Eddie is a weekly column that examines the important people and events in the classic rock canon and how they continue to impact the world of popular music.
Every year it seems there’s one, big, marquee rock reunion that looms large over the summer concert calendar. Last year it was the punk band Jawbreaker, the year before that it was the Misfits with Glenn Danzig back in the fold. The year before that it was the Pacific Northwest group Sleater-Kinney. This year, it’s Smashing Pumpkins’ turn to assume the reunion mantle. The Billy Corgan-led outfit re-enlisted guitarist James Iha and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain for a new round of recording sessions for an as-yet-untitled album, and an extensive live run across North America.
Of course, because this is Smashing Pumpkins, it couldn’t be as simple as a press release and tightly controlled media campaign designed to whip up intense enthusiasm among casual listeners who maybe hadn’t thought about the Pumpkins since the days of Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness. The whole endeavor was fraught from the outset thanks to a series of public disagreements between Corgan and former bassist D’Arcy Wretzky, centering around questions the frontman had about her ability to perform live on an extended tour. Ultimately, she was left out, which left a bad taste in some fans mouths.
Still, whatever misgivings some had about the renewed Pumpkins, I was personally excited. Even more so after reading Uproxx Deputy Music Editor Phil Cosores’ review of the band’s kickoff show in Phoenix, Arizona from a month ago. I also knew from seeing Corgan’s solo Ogilala tour last year that the effects of time had done nothing to diminish either his voice or his ability to play an instrument. Having never witnessed Smashing Pumpkins live in my life, I felt like I had to catch this run for myself, and where better in the world than the band’s hometown in Chicago?
Wherever else in the world Smashing Pumpkins’s popularity may have waned since the height of their popularity in the mid-1990s, there’s still a tremendous amount of love for the band in the Windy City. There have been reports of soft ticket sales perhaps in some other markets, but let me tell you, the United Center, a 23,000 seat arena, was packed to the rafters with fans who seemed to know every single song that Billy and company threw at them. “Last time we played this building was about 2000 so it means a lot for us to be back with you,” Corgan told the crowd near the end of the show. It meant a lot to us too.
With all of that in mind, here are 30 things I loved about Smashing Pumpkins reunion show in Chicago.
1. That the show began with Billy Corgan emerging by himself from the middle of a pair of floating screens, strumming an acoustic guitar and playing “Disarm,” while a montage of shots of him as a boy flitted in and out of view behind him. This is a Smashing Pumpkins show, but it’s important to never forget who’s the boss.