The stage that once played host to The Smashing Pumpkins’ farewell UK show in 2000, was once again host of the band, though this time it seems they were hosting a much more rejuvenated and forecasting band than 13 years ago. Positive reviews to last year’s Oceania album, meant the band were on an upward curve for the first time perhaps since those halcyon days in the mid-1990s.
One major criticism of the Billy Corgan-fronted band is regularly that they refused to “play the hits”, however the opening nostalgic burst of the anthemic “Tonight, Tonight” and the rocking “Cherub Rock”, put that to bed, before a storming rendition of “X.Y.U” and a beautiful sing-along to “Disarm”, complete with the mellotron opening chords.
The crowd are completely onside following the hit-friendly opening, allowing the band to show off material from Oceania, complete with psychedelic visuals on the big screen. The likes of “One Diamond, One Heart”, “Pale Horse” and “Pinwheels” are well received, with many in the crowd singing back. Corgan briefly opens up to the crowd, heartedly thanking those in attendance and reminiscing previous trips to London, including the now demolished Astoria venue. He promises “more hits to come”, after the bombastic “Oceania”, complete with searing guitars courtesy of long-time member Jeff Schroeder and funky basslines from Nicole Fiorentino.
The hits do indeed come, a relentless burst of ”Thirty Three”, “Ava Adore”, “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”, “Zero”, “Today and Stand Inside Your Love” follows, “Bullet” and “Today” showing the type of atmospheric crowd pogoing that you rarely see anymore, certainly not at a soulless arena such as Wembley. The 10 minute progressive beast “United States” closes things off, with 23-year-old drummer Mike Byrne doing a decent job of filling Jimmy Chamberlin’s impossible footsteps, with a melted image of the US flag projected on the screen behind.
A two song encore sees an acoustic sing-along to “The Celestials” and the surprise of the night perhaps, the nine-minute long “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” from 1995’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which features the usual ingredients from the Pumpkins’ back catalogue; slow builds, thumping drums and an explosive release of noise.
Tonight’s set is about as crowd pleasing as it can be, for a notoriously unpredictable live band, one to please the hardcores and casual fans aplenty. Perhaps it could be the start of a progressive and positive new era for the band at last.