You knew in advance it was going to be a special, unique night. Guest stars, including Courtney Love and members of New Order, The Killers, AFI and Sugar Ray were announced in advance.
But The Smashing Pumpkins’ 30th anniversary show at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, Aug. 2, was more than just that: It was a bona fide, capital-E Event, wildly unpredictable and sometimes transcendent. You can check out the setlist and eight videos below.
The band’s current Shiny and Oh So Bright tour marks the reunion of frontman Billy Corgan with original members James Iha (guitar) and Jimmy Chamberlin (drums). And roughly the first half of the two-hour, 40-minute set was guest-free and emphasized the explosive and often-angst-filled sound that these three (joined, on the current tour, by guitarist Jeff Schroeder, bassist Jack Bates and keyboardist Katie Cole) are able to generate.
Before welcoming their first guest, singer Chino Moreno of Deftones, Corgan that the band — though hailing from Chicago, and having just played a big show at Madison Square Garden in New York on Aug. 1 — decided to do the anniversary show in Holmdel since “one of the first places in America that supported Smashing Pumpkins was New Jersey.” (Corgan also said the band is going to do more anniversary shows.)
Moreno’s booming voice was well suited for the guitar-driven bombast of the two songs he chose (neither of which the Pumpkins have been playing on their current tour), “Bodies” and “Snail.”
The Pumpkins then performed one of their best known songs (“Tonight, Tonight”) and a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” featuring Corgan on keyboards, before welcoming their next guests, Killers guitarist Dave Keuning and bassist Mark Stoermer, who blended into the rich instrumental mix of “Cherub Rock” and “1979” without really attempting to put their own stamp on the songs.
Next up was Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray, who sang that band’s upbeat, lilting hit “Fly” — you’ll never see a lighter moment at a Smashing Pumpkins show — and then duetted with Corgan on Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law.” Now that’s range!
“I think I speak on behalf of everyone here tonight … thank you for the 30 years of music, and being the Brian Wilson of my generation,” McGrath told Corgan.
After a bit of a breather, with “Today,” Love sang slightly ragged but still commanding lead vocals on “Celebrity Skin” and “Malibu,” two hit singles from the 1998 Hole album Celebrity Skin that were co-written by Corgan. She also contributed supporting vocals to a powerfully cathartic version of the signature Smashing Pumpkins song, “Bullet With Butterfly Wings.”
Corgan and Love were once lovers, in the early ’90s, and have also feuded publicly, at times, over the years. On this night, Corgan called her “my dearest friend.” Love called him her worst friend as well as her best friend, and also said, “I love this man with all my soul.”
Love’s mini-set was the emotional high point of the evening, but musically, the ultimate highlights were three dark, driving, minimalistic songs with bassist Peter Hook, whose work with the bands Joy Division and New Order had a huge influence on Corgan. Hook played his assertive bass lines on New Order’s “Age of Consent” as well as Joy Division’s “Transmission” (sung by Davey Havok of AFI) and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (mainly sung by Corgan, with support from Havok and Love).
The Smashing Pumpkins returned to the stage for two encores on their own: The new “Solara” and a gentle, unplugged take on the standard, “Baby Mine,” a low-key cap to a truly memorable show.
Here is the setlist:
“The Everlasting Gaze”
“Stand Inside Your Love”
“Bodies” (with Chino Moreno)
“Snail” (with Chino Moreno)
“Stairway to Heaven”
“Cherub Rock” (with Dave Keuning and Mark Stoermer)
“1979” (with Dave Keuning and Mark Stoermer)
“Fly” (with Mark McGrath)
“Breaking the Law” (with Mark McGrath)
“Celebrity Skin” (with Courtney Love)
“Malibu” (with Courtney Love)
“Bullet With Butterfly Wings” (with Courtney Love)
“Age of Consent” (with Peter Hook)
“Transmission” (with Peter Hook and Davey Havok)
“Love Will Tear Us Apart” (with Peter Hook, Davey Havok and Courtney Love)
And here are some videos: