Smashing Pumpkins Headlines Halloween Weekend Show With ’90s Vibes (Photos)

CLEVELAND, Ohio — “The world is a vampire…” The iconic opening lyric of the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” still has the same impact it had 27 years ago, sending the crowd into a frenzy Saturday night at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse during the ” Spirits on Fire Tour”.

The concert felt extra special over Halloween weekend. With hundreds of people in costume heading downtown Cleveland to parties, there might not have been a better band to get right on stage (okay, so Ghost or the Misfits might have worked).

The Smashing Pumpkins certainly drew a certain type of audience. Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse felt like time travel of sorts, with fans wearing t-shirts that read things like “Paul’s Boutique” and “I’m Making Good Friends With You.” There was also flannel. Not a ton of flannel, but enough flannel to make you think you’re at an early 1990’s Pearl Jam concert.

The night’s other big act, Jane’s Addiction, added even more ’90s vibes. In fact, Perry Farrell and company were feeling more like a co-headliner, opening with the powerful sounds of “Up the Beach” when Farrell sauntered onto the stage and drew a huge reaction from the crowd.

Farrell rocked a gleaming suit and orchestrated the celebrations like a seedy dude trying to sell you something on the Sunset Strip — exactly how you want it — while burlesque dancers did naughty things on the raised platform behind him.

“Don’t be jealous,” Farrell jokingly told the crowd after the dancers interacted with him. “It’s just a show… sort of.”

The set of Jane’s Addiction was short but sweet, with songs like “Whores,” “Ain’t No Right,” and “Ocean Size” (“I sent that straight to your damn balls!” Farrell proclaimed). The band’s dancers came and went, pleading at various times for the use of a sex swing and rocking pony (yes, that happened).

Still, it was hard to take your eyes off Farrell, whose voice floated through the arena with the help of vocal effects. He struggled through the shrill “Jane Says” a bit, but it was such a nostalgia trip that nobody seemed to mind. This led to the epic “Mountain Song” before the closing double whammy of “Stop!” and “Been Caught Stealing,” which has Farrell dancing around like he’s in his 20s again.

The Smashing Pumpkins spread a different kind of vibe. Billy Corgan and his band, which consists of original members James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlin, along with guitarist Jeff Schroeder and backing musicians, came on stage in a low key manner.

Corgan held out his hands and encouraged the crowd to make noise. Committed to the fans. But the opening number “Empires” from the band’s forthcoming album “Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Acts” felt a little disappointing.

It wasn’t until the drums of “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” hit that things really got going. Some of the Smashing Pumpkins songs have always been about little memorable moments, like the opening lyrics to “Bullet…” or the rousing guitars on Saturday night’s “Today.”

One of the early standout moments came during “We Only Come Out at Night,” when Corgan on acoustic guitar led a singalong that he deemed “beautiful.” Everything the Smashing Pumpkins played on Saturday was tight — the band has fully transitioned from their early alternative-rock four-man days to an act with a stadium-level sound — but that doesn’t mean parts aren’t awkward were.

Every time Corgan put down his instrument and moved around the stage with just a mic in hand, it was a little weird. A lot of it consisted of playing songs from the Pumpkins’ electronic period, be it “Eye” or “Cyr”.

Watching Corgan and company transform into Depeche Mode wasn’t the main attraction of the evening. The somber cover of Talking Head’s “Once in a Lifetime” by the Smashing Pumpkins, which could best be described as interesting, wasn’t that interesting either.

Despite this, the band never stopped sounding great. The guitar solos broke. Chamberlin’s drums cracked. That made performances of songs like “Solara” and “Ava Adore” extraordinary.

But the best moment of the evening was acoustic. Corgan and Iha took the stage alone to perform “Tonight Tonight” from 1995’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. It was hard not to get carried away by the magic of it all, especially after Corgan led the performance by thanking fans in Cleveland for sticking with the band for 34 years.

The performance of “Tonight Tonight” couldn’t be topped. But exciting versions of “Starla” and “Stand Inside Your Love” came close.

The Pumpkins saved fan-favorites like “Zero,” “Disarm,” and “1979” for the closing portion of the show before concluding with an epic rendition of “Silverf–k.” It wasn’t the longest set in the world and ended up with Halloween parties still raging in downtown Cleveland. But the Pumpkins touched on every chapter of their career while also making a clear indication that the band would be back sooner rather than later.


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