Psychedelic, Dark, and Glorious The Pumpkins Smash The Forum Smashing Pumpkins Treat Los Angeles To Hours Of Their Hypnotic Music
LOS ANGELES, CA- First off, I’ve been wanting to see the Smashing Pumpkins for ages. I’ve been bitter for years about getting so sick that I had to give my ticket to their 2012 tour to some rando I found on Craigslist. Their show at the Forum was almost about redemption for me. That said, here’s the text of the actual message I sent my editor (photographer Methodman13) from the Forum: “I really wish you were shooting this show bc Billy Corgan is out of his freaking mind and it’s kind of amazing.”
The entire production was a show of ego reaching near-Kanye proportions. Except it was better than watching Kanye because it included no epic rants and was filled with more wall-to-wall hypnotic music than one performance could really hold.
The lighting was saturated, psychedelic, dark, and glorious. The videos ranged from scribbled-out childhood photos of Corgan to inexplicably sexualized references to religious icons — with an actual faux-icon led through the arena by fake monks. There was a lot of music I didn’t recognize in the 32-song setlist, but it didn’t matter. We were all there for the Church of Pumpkins.
Tossed in between their hits and creepy Mark McGrath nightmare-carnival video intros, the Pumpkins included covers of iconic songs like “Stairway to Heaven” and “Landslide.” I don’t understand how, but Billy Corgan somehow even pulled off singing a David Bowie cover to a wall while dressed like Arrow meets Disco Phantom.
We were in a trance, listening, watching, pulled in by the group’s energy.
And it was most of the group, indeed. Billy Corgan, James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin… Only D’arcy Wretzky was missing from the classic lineup, unsurprisingly given what seems to be a permanent falling-out with Corgan. Jeff Schroeder and a handful of touring musicians admirably worked to fill the gap, though you could still feel her absence.
32 songs. Multiple costume changes for Corgan, in silver lamé from half-kilt to boxer’s hooded jacket, then morphing into a skeleton and a space villain. Rotating set pieces flipping from metallic industrial dystopia to bright video screens. Periodic chat-with-the-audience moments with Iha, a bright spot on the dark stage in his white suit. But mostly what looked like peering into the inner workings of Corgan’s dreams. Or were they nightmares?
Finally, it had gone on too long. Though the evening was brilliant and the energy never faded, it grew later and later. Audience members — who had eagerly posed for pictures with the lyrics posted as Instagram-bait on the Forum columns just a few hours earlier — grew tired and began to trickle out the door as the clock drew closer to midnight.
It felt almost like the night had been a cult initiation, with Corgan et al commanding the crowd to worship — and the everyone eagerly following along. The spell was broken only as we emerged into the Forum parking lot, bedecked in trailers full of pickup trucks for the next day’s Tailgate Fest.
I walked out in a daze, wandering between semi-goths and pickups. How could something that makes you feel the artist has gone completely off the rails also seem so right? That’s the question of the evening, but whatever Corgan is selling, we’re buying.