The Smashing Pumpkins recent performance in a packed Portland, Maine theater shows they can still rock the house some 20 years later as they continue their national tour to promote their new Oceania album.
The line to get into the State Theater last weekend wrapped around the block and down neighboring High street. It was packed with a surprisingly wide range of ages. Excited fans, from those who were probably toddlers when the Pumpkins first hit the scene, to older people (like me) braved a chilly December night to see a band that has gone through constant transition. Appropriate, because inside Billy Corgan, the only original member of the Pumpkins, was preparing with his new band members, the youngest of which was recruited straight out of the Berklee College of Music three years ago at the age of 19.
Once I made my way inside this historic theater, I bee-lined for the stage and was able to get a great position. I think luck was on my side, because the photo pit was closed for the show. A pain for a photographer like me, but you have to respect the band’s decision of not putting anyone before their fans.
Turning around, I saw a packed house. The Pumpkins can still draw a crowd – and you could see and feel the excitiment in the room. The crowd was ready to rock.
Opener Five Knives took the to stage wearing some strange techno-y metallic masks. I have to admit, I hadn’t heard of them before, and the masks left me wondering what they were all about. My worries were put to rest when they started to play. They rocked.
After the show, I listened to some of their tracks online. The online stuff sounds pretty synthesized, but the live show was much less so. It was more hard rock and more my style. I don’t know whether it was because they weren’t in the studio, they adjusted their performance, or I was just caught up in the show. Whatever the reason, I loved the sound.
Lead singer Anna Worstell brought off an extremely high energy set, dancing around the stage and belting out angry lyrics. As a photographer, it was sensational to watch. Also, let’s face it, I love Billy Corgan, but Worstell is much easier on the eyes. Highly recommend the live show. Go see them.
The Pumpkins were up next and broke right into the new album ‘Oceania’. It’s the first with the newly reconstructed Smashing Pumpkins: Billy Corgan, guitarist Jeff Schroeder, drummer Mike Bryne, and bassist Nicole Fiorentino. However, the band maintains Corgan’s signature hard alternative sound. There is no doubt who the band’s driving influence is, both then and now. In fact, you can think of Oceania as classic Smashing Pumpkins, without all that pesky age.
Their set started by playing the Oceania album in its entirety. Corgan mentioned they’d be playing some “dusties” at the end, but it’s clear they were showcasing the new music up front.
The Pumpkin’s website mentions the visuals designed for the Oceania tour. The effects are by Sean Evans, the same guy that did Roger Waters’ “The Wall” effects during his most recent tour. I saw the Roger Waters show last July (albeit in an altered mental state) and was really looking forward to the visuals. Unfortunately, the State Theater was too intimate to set up the big ball of a projection screen. Instead, the visuals were projected on the wall. Didn’t work out too well.
The second half of the show kicked off with a cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity. Next up, the band’s own classics. When they broke into X.Y.U., the crowd went wild. The new music was great, but the classics are the classics.
In summary, the Pumpkins are still here and are still creating great music. If you’ve been a fan in the past, you owe it to yourself to pick up the new album and check out the show.
My Love is Winter
One Diamond, One Heart
Bullet With Butterfly Wings
The Dream Machine