The curtain was opened for fans at the Scotiabank Saddledome at 7:30 on September 8, and the anticipation lingered in the air like the marijuana smoke would later on. A black screen split apart down the centre, pulling to either side of the stage, with graphics scattering across. The graphics showed a piece of each chapter of the Smashing Pumpkins’ history, from artwork from Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness to Siamese Dream. Through the gap between the screens, a single white light peeked through, and thereafter, the mystical William Patrick Corgan. Emerging with only an acoustic guitar, Corgan strummed the first chords of “Disarm,” and the crowd erupted, jumping to their feet. The simplicity of a man and his guitar was beautifully accompanied by various photos and videos of Corgan as a child, with different graffiti like scribbles appearing over them. It was an intimate, transfixing moment, and it suddenly felt as if the audience was no longer in an arena. It felt as if each person was experiencing their own moment, and the room was united.
All eyes were on Corgan for the entirety of the night - his brooding stature and awkward movements worked in the best way. A flowing cape-like outfit accompanied by his signature shaved head made him from a distance, appear as if he were a shaman. He was primarily hunched over a guitar, but abandoned it for the bands rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” It’s always a bold (but increasingly popular) choice by artists to cover other artists who are no longer with us, and it turned out to be one of the most captivating moments of the evening. Everything worked, from the stage set-up, to the graphics, which during “Space Oddity,” transformed the stage into outer space. The focus shifted halfway through the set, as founding guitarist James Iha took a moment to address the crowd, have some banter, and then sing “Blew Away.” I assumed in that moment that he was sort of the spokesperson for the band, and didn’t expect any more conversation for the remainder of the evening. They carried on their set, and the only fans that got lost were ones who were just there for the hits. This concert was not intended for that - this was a marathon that only die-hard Pumpkins fans could keep up with. But, that isn’t to say that fellow spectators who might have been unfamiliar with some deeper cuts into the band’s extensive catalog got lost, it was just a different perspective: they were watching the marathon, not running in it, and there’s nothing wrong with that. When the band got to “Tonight, Tonight”, everyone in attendance was attentive. Following that, they covered “Stairway to Heaven,” another ambitious but extremely well done cover. From there, the sharp snares of “Cherub Rock,” provided by drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, filled the arena. The crowd was once again fully immersed, and would continue to be for the remainder of the concert. “1979,” “Today,” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” were played in close proximity, and during “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” the room was electric and intensified. For those passive fans in attendance, that was the end of the show, as it had already been a three hour long concert. As the set neared its completion, Billy Corgan became a bit more talkative in an unexpected way which added to the overall intimacy of the concert. Each member emulated a genuine feeling that they were happy to be on stage again, which was a beautiful sight to see. There is nothing more disheartening than watching an artist you love lose their heart and perform as if they’re completely disinterested. The band played a short but sweet two song encore, and then bid farewell for now to their fans in Calgary.
While I can’t say I understand Billy, or his soul, I felt as if I was exposed to a piece of it, as it was laid out on stage for me and thousands of others. Going into the show, I was skeptical, as I had heard negative talk surrounding the Smashing Pumpkins in concert. But what me, and every single member of the audience witnessed on that Saturday night in September, was a spectacle. A testament of perseverance, and a celebration of a career that is re-blossoming. I had always considered the Smashing Pumpkins to be in a league of Oasis, or The Smiths - bands that despise each other so much that they will never have a reunion, no matter how badly fans want it or how loud the money talks. It’s 2018, and we should be ecstatic that the Smashing Pumpkins are back together again, even if they’re short one original member. This band is not just one from the past, a “where are they now?”-has-been of the 90s. In fact, now more than ever, the Smashing Pumpkins have a future that is shiny and oh so bright.
Click here to check out all of our photos from this incredible show! Follow this link to listen to the Smashing Pumpkins’ latest song, “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)” from their upcoming album, Shiny and Oh So Bright, set to be released on November 16.