Smashing Pumpkins Beguile During Special Homecoming Set At Metro Chicago

For nearly 35 years, Chicago’s Metro has served as a special home for alternative rock act Smashing Pumpkins, with the group performing at the iconic 1,100 person capacity club on nearly 40 occasions.

At times, Metro was home to career firsts, like the group’s debut performance at the venue in October of 1988, one doubling as their first ever with drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. A month later, the band would wind up as a last minute Metro opening act on a bill featuring Jane’s Addiction, a pairing which will be revisited starting October 3 as Jane’s and the Pumpkins launch the co-headlining “Spirits On Fire” arena tour across the country.

At other turns, Metro provided closure, setting the scene for an emotional final Smashing Pumpkins concert prior to a break up in December of 2000.

In between, it was a place for celebration and experimentation, hosting a 1993 Siamese Dream release party as well as a surprise set in 1998 which showcased a different side of the band upon the release of Adore. There’s also been charity appearances, solo shows and occasional guest spots with artists like Cheap Trick.

For the first time in ten years, Smashing Pumpkins took to the Metro stage for an intimate sold out appearance Tuesday night in Chicago, part of Metro’s 40th anniversary celebration and an overwhelmingly successful promotion for recently rebranded Cumulus Media
alternative radio station, Q101, who gave away all of the tickets for the free show, conjuring up a bit of nostalgia during nearly two weeks of call in contests.

“Hello. Thank you so much for coming out,” deadpanned guitarist James Iha in his guise as master of ceremonies. “We appreciate it.”

A line stretched out of Metro north on Clark Street, wrapping around the block west onto Racine Avenue, the group taking the stage promptly at 8 PM to accommodate a live radio broadcast of the performance.

Over the course of nearly two and a half hours, Smashing Pumpkins, backed by singer Katie Cole, touched upon virtually every facet of its rich catalog, one responsible for worldwide album sales in excess of 30 million, unearthing a box set deep cut alongside soundtrack material and a whole lot of hits.

Prepping their twelfth studio album ATUM, now available for pre-save/pre-order ahead of a spring release, the group tore through a pair of brand new tracks for the first time, frontman William Patrick Corgan turning to face Iha at the top of “Empires” before putting forth “Beguiled” later.

Corgan will continue to deliver tracks from the new album, a three act rock opera intended as a follow up to both Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995) and Machina/The Machines of God (2000), weekly in the run up to its April release via the new podcast “Thirty-Three With William Patrick Corgan.”

“We’re still here. We have some more hits,” joked Iha on stage Tuesday, the group going back to their breakout 1993 album Siamese Dream for “Quiet” to open the show, rolling out “Drown” shortly thereafter. “The next one is a good one!” said Iha, setting up “Today.” “Will you tell them that it’s not good?” joked Corgan in reply. “They’re all good! It’s a state of mind,” said Iha dryly.

From the group’s 1996 singles box set The Aeroplane Flies High, “Ugly” was an unexpected early highlight Tuesday at Metro, the group moving straight into “Bullet With Butterfly Wings.”

Following a rumbling bass intro by Jack Bates, Corgan improvised new lyrics to Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime,” working in references to the Windy City while the band turned the post-punk standout into a goth rock spectacle, Chamberlin shining on late fills alongside a masterful solo from guitarist Jeff Schroeder.

The crowd tried to clap along to “Solara,” eventually losing pace as Chamberlin turned the track into a frenetic solo showcase, Corgan offering up an atmospheric solo as the band stretched out. “The greatest drummer on god’s green earth,” said the singer later.

“Metro, are you feeling the love tonight?” asked Corgan rhetorically of the hometown crowd, pausing during “Eye.” Iha worked up a new intro to the soundtrack cut as Corgan put down his guitar opting to dance, smiling in the spotlight as he sashayed across the stage. “Sing it with me!” he said, holding out the mic with his left hand, huddling with Schroeder at the right side of the stage.

Two of the evening’s deeper cuts came back-to-back Tuesday, the band showcasing it’s debut album Gish alongside Pisces Iscariot, a 1994 collection of outtakes and B-sides, via “Snail” and “Starla,” the former spotlighting one of Corgan’s finest solos of the evening amidst a three guitar onslaught.

“There are 13 more songs. You guys cool?” joked Iha, setting up “Cherub Rock” as the marathon club set began heading toward its finish. “Cherub Rock” followed “Silverf–k” and both gave way to “Zero,” the group taking Tuesday night’s show to encore in rollicking fashion.

“Thank you very much, Chicago. It’s great being back and it’s great being back here at the Metro,” said Iha, setting up an acoustic take on a bit of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Back Home.”

Despite little rehearsal, Corgan and Iha performed “Tonight Tonight” as an acoustic duo, the show’s unquestionable high spot. “Believe… Believe in me,” sang Corgan on stage at Metro during the homecoming show. In 1995, that was all Chicago needed to hear and did so blindly.

“Thank you for being with us. Our first gig was at the Metro in October of 1988,” said Corgan during the acoustic performance, taking a look back. “Don’t tell them that!” gasped Iha to laughs.

“Last thing…” mused Corgan during a rare serious moment. “Life is precious, life is sweet. So you honor us by being with us tonight.”

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