On Tuesday night, Smashing Pumpkins returned to Houston as part of the “Shiny and Oh So Bright” tour. This was the first time the original lineup of the band got back together to play (oh, but not bassist D’arcy Wretyzy — I don’t think she got the memo). Three out of four ain’t bad, right? Regardless, powerhouse drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, guitar icon James Iha, and the one and only Billy Corgan were all there on stage together.
The Toyota Center was pretty crowded, but there were still quite a few open seats. Moreover, a local newsletter in town had given quite a few tickets away for free to fill seats. This tour appears to be one of the more ambitious ones in recent Smashing Pumpkins history. The last time the band was here (Corgan being the only original member), the venue they played at, Cullen Performance Hall, had a seating capacity of slightly over 1,500; they jumped up a few nights ago to one with over 18,000 seats.
Metric had opened the evening, but I did not make it in time. The Pumpkins went on at 8:15 p.m. sharp. It was not till I got to the photo pit that I understood that reasoning; it would be a three-hour-long set. This was reaffirmed when James Iha took the mic about ten songs in and said something along the lines of, “How we feeling? We got about 45 more songs.” He was joking — it was more like 32 more.
A video montage began before Corgan first took the stage with a montage of caricatured and reimagined album covers shooting across the screen before the infamous Siamese Dream girls lit a torch with the bands logo. Next was this overly bright vertical line in the middle of the stage. Like, it was really bright. To shield my eyes, I looked behind me where I could see the shadow of Corgan being projected, which in hindsight was pretty clever. He then broke out a solo performance of “Disarm.” A few songs later, the whole band was in full rock mode and Corgan did his second of many costume changes. A latter had now appeared behind Chamberlin and the band did their classic cover of the Bowie song “Space Oddity.” Other covers in this set included Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” Another odd thing would be the multiple Mark McGrath video introductions. I’m not sure what that was about, to be frank.
Overall, the night was to ensure you that you get your feel of Smashing Pumpkins songs with at least most of the original members. Fortunately, the band was also pretty good about keeping — for the most part — to their older material. And they sounded really good doing it. They still had their chops. I mean, those early albums are really so, so good. When Corgan doesn’t dwell on the reptilian shapeshifters in the music industry with Alex Jones and he puts his efforts to his songs, his abilities seem endless. Endless is also how the show felt at times, just because of its sheer length. I think the tour started about a week or so before the Houston date. That is going to be a very hard and tiring tour for the aging musicians. More power to them.