On Monday night at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the Smashing Pumpkins played their final show of the Oceania tour, making up the rescheduled Halloween date that was cancelled in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  Having seen the Pumpkins with original members James Iha and D’Arcy Wretzky on January 24th, 1997 at Nassau Coliseum during the Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness tour, I was intrigued to see how Pumpkins mastermind Billie Corgan was faring these days with his new lineup.

Coincidentally, the Coliseum show was played a rescheduled date played without original drummer Jimmy Chamberlain after he was kicked out of the band following the overdose of keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin prior to the MSG show in NYC in ’96 – which coincidentally would have been my first Pumpkins show.  I can remember seeing that on MTV as if it were yesterday.  The  was a pretty epic show at the time, as I was 15 years old and embarking on my journey into the music world; things have very much come full circle, as fifteen years later I am sitting here writing a review for a Smashing Pumpkins concert in 2012 and reminiscing about one from 1997.

As far as the Barclays show went, it was hard to pre-determine what to expect.  If you looked up anything about the tour, you knew that they were playing Oceania in its entirety, then finishing the set and encoring with the goods that everyone wanted to hear.  How could you go see the Smashing Pumpkins and not want to hear a “Disarm”, a “Cherub Rock”, or “Tonight, Tonight”?  Personally, I wanted a “Mayonaise” from ’93′s Siamese Dream, but I knew better than to expect that.

Having not listened to much of the new album prior to the show, I have to admit that this is a collection of really good songs.  Corgan’s writing hasn’t declined much at all, as he can still tap into that classic Pumpkins sound that he began to create back in 1988 with James Iha.   As always, both lyrics and music is emotionally charged, which isn’t surprising given Corgan’s penchant for the dramatic.  Songs like “Panopticon”, “The Celestials”, “One Diamond, One Heart” and the title track “Oceania” are dreamy, spacey, and a bit more at ease than previous work; yet the music rocks and completely gives credit to the fact that Corgan hasn’t lost the touch.

What these tracks played live also offer is a good look into the makeup of the band.  Whereas on previous albums Corgan played most instruments on the recording, guitarist Jeff Shroeder, bassist Nicole Fiorentino, and drummer Mike Byrne played right along with him on the recording of Oceania.  You could see how comfortable they were playing the new material, and what each of them brings to this new incarnation of the Smashing Pumpkins.  And the orb that was employed above Corgan to provide some eye candy had some fantastic visuals that went really well with the music from Oceania.  (Check out L4LM’s Maria Newman’s pictures in our photo gallery)

The crowd’s reaction to the new material was fairly respectful; you never know how receptive a crowd is going to be when a band plays just the new stuff.  But they got through it like champs, and when a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” was played, you could feel the energy in the room rise, as it was time for the heavy-hitters.  “X.Y.U” from the Twilight to Starlight section of Mellon Collie was a welcomed track.  At this point, you could see Corgan getting some swagger, and he started in with some banter on different topics ranging from poking fun at himself and saying to Shroeder “some reputations are earned”, The New England Patriots (as Fiorentine is from the Massachusetts area),  thanking the crowd for coming to the makeup show and wishing them a “Happy Halloween”, and several other rambles.

Getting to hear and sing-along to songs like “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”, “Hummer”, and “Zero” live again and with Corgan going full-on rock star, after such a long wait, was well worth it.  As an old-school Pumpkins fan, would it have been nice to have a full 2-hour set of classics?  Of course, but it is what it is.  Maybe next time around they will not play a new album in full, but that is what we got on this night.  And, in all honesty, it was pretty fucking good.  Corgan can still write, he can still play, and his voice has held up after all these years.  It wasn’t the best show I have ever seen, but there wasn’t really much bad in there, if at all.  The show was well-played and you have to give credit where credit is due.  Definitely give a listen to Oceania when you get the chance.  If you like the Smashing Pumpkins, chances are that you will probably like this album.

You can purchase Oceania and other Smashing Pumpkins material here


The Celestials
Violet Rays
My Love is Winter
One Diamond, One Heart
Pale Horse
The Chimera Glissandra
Space Oddity (David Bowie cover)
Tonight Reprise
Tonight, Tonight
Bullet With Butterfly Wings
The Dream Machine

Ava Adore
Cherub Rock

Photos by Maria Newman