For seven to eight months out of the year (depending on a playoff run), Bridgestone Arena and Nashville, TN are locally referred to as Smashville thanks to the success of a certain NHL hockey team known as the Nashville Predators. But on the night of July 20, 2018 the name Smashville took on a new meaning as the Smashing Pumpkins brought their Shiny and Oh So Bright Tour to Nashville, the sixth stop on a massive US tour extending into September and heading to the UK and Italy in October.
The Shiny and Oh So Bright Tour marks the reunion of three-fourths of the Smashing Pumpkins’ classic lineup including front man William Patrick Corgan (formerly known as Billy), guitarist James Iha, and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, touring together for the first time in nearly 20 years. Notably missing is original bassist D’arcy Wretzky whose absence has been the subject of much back and forth in the media since the “reunion” announcement back in February. The tour, which happens to coincide with 30th anniversary of the band’s formation, was billed as a celebration of their early and most loved works from the 90’s and early 2000’s. Rounding out the band’s lineup for this trek is Jeff Schroeder on guitar, Jack Bates on bass, and Katie Cole on keyboards and backing vocals.
Opening for the Pumpkins on this tour is four piece Canadian rock band Metric. Odds are that if you’ve watched TV, seen a movie, or played a video game in the past 5-10 years you have heard a tune by Metric. As the band members swiftly made their way into position onto a stage decorated solely by their instruments and speakers, lead singer Emily Haines approached the mic with purpose and after a quick “Good evening Nashville, we’re Metric” the band was off and running into their hit song “Black Sheep.” Metric served as the inspiration for the fictional band, the Clash at Demonhead, from the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World who famously performed “Black Sheep” in the movie. Performing under a barrage of swirling spotlights and strobes, Metric made quick work of the rest of their nine song set list, which included the songs “Satellite Mind,” “Dressed,” “Dark Saturday,” “Youth Without Youth,” “Gold Guns Girls,” “Now or Never,” “Breathing Underwater,” and wrapping up with the hugely popular “Help I’m Alive.” The crowd, mostly seated by this point, though some still spilling into their seats from beer and merch runs, rewarded the energetic and flawless performance with an enthusiastic round of applause but it was apparent they were ready to witness the reason they were there.
After the quick set change and intermission, the lights dropped and the curtain opened to reveal an enormous screen projecting visuals encompassing the history of the Smashing Pumpkins . . . the ice cream truck from the “Today” video, the lady in the star from the ‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’ album cover, and even an appearance by the now adult versions of the little girls from the cover of the ‘Siamese Dream’ album who promptly lit fire to a full size version of the SP heart logo, ending the almost three minute intro. It was at this point that the screen split apart and very bright beams of light burst through and a silhouetted solo Billy Corgan emerged, black and silver-starred acoustic guitar in hand. Following 45 seconds of feverish applause and cheers from the crowd, Billy broke right into the haunting “Disarm,” backed by images of a young Billy Corgan on the large screen behind him, his voice as strong and distinct as ever. Soon after finishing, the rest of the band joined him onstage, with drummer Jimmy Chamberlin acknowledging the crowd with a wave and smile. He and the crowd both felt good to have him back. Once in position, with almost robotic like precision, the Smashing Pumpkins breezed through classics like “Rocket” off of ‘Siamese Dream’ and then “Siva” and “Rhinoceros” off their debut studio album ‘Gish’. Corgan’s often times forgotten lead guitar prowess was on full display early in the set. Without missing a beat or coming up for air, the band then went into the first of four cover songs for the evening, “Space Oddity” by the late David Bowie, one of the few songs where Billy performed without a guitar. Instead, he climbed up to the top of a platform above the band, where he channeled his inner spaceman and gave arguably his most emotional performance of the night in front of the large screen projecting a myriad of red space themed clouds and lunar surfaces.
All told, the band played 12 songs for the first part of the set, including fan favorites “Zero” and “Thirty-Three,” which was when James Iha finally took the opportunity to interact with the crowd, saying “Alright, alright, alright Nashville! Thank you so much for coming out. Nashville . . . the city of country and western, how are ya?” Which was met with a big cheer from the arena. He jokingly continued, “Don’t worry, we have two more songs tonight. It’s all we got.” As promised, after “Thirty-Three” they played two more songs, “Eye” and “Soma”, before the first of two vaudevillian style intermissions featuring an on-screen appearance by Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray fame.
The band’s second set of the night consisted of nine songs, featuring “Blew Away” with Iha on lead vocals, the ever popular “Tonight, Tonight” and two more cover songs . . . Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” A big arena show in Nashville is never complete without a guest appearance and this show was no different as midway through “Stairway” when we began to “wind on down the road”, Nashville area resident Lzzy Hale from the band Halestorm appeared on stage to duet with Billy during the crescendo of the song. Even through a malfunctioning mic you could still hear Lzzy hitting those Robert Plant high notes and feel the intensity up in the cheap seats! The Pumpkins finished off their second set with “Cherub Rock,” the lead track off ‘Siamese Dream’.
Following the second Mark McGrath interlude, Billy and the band began their third and final set with one of their most popular songs and videos, “1979” off ‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’. They continued with seven more songs, including “Hummer,” “Today,” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” which at around 3 minutes and 45 seconds the band stopped playing and led the crowd in a massive sing along (you know the part . . . “Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage!”) only to have drummer Jimmy Chamberlin miss his cue and Billy stop again to lightheartedly tell him, “Jimmy, these people, they want perfection!” Billy counted them back in and they wrapped up their third set with “Muzzle.” To finish off the night, the band returned to the stage for an encore to perform their recently released single “Solara” and a cover of “Baby Mine” by Betty Noyes which featured Chamberlin on ukulele.
31 songs (40 counting Metric), over three hours of nearly musical perfection (thanks a lot, Jimmy), and one of the most creative visual and light shows out there (gonna be hard to top Tool). Smashing Pumpkins really delivered on their promise to bring a show unlike any they’ve ever done. It was easy to see how they came up with the name Shiny and Oh So Bright. Let’s hope this reunion of Corgan, Iha and Chamberlin can go the distance and lead to some new music in the future, because the chemistry they share on stage and in the studio is, in a word, smashing.