Review by Billy Geary
With the annual Splendour in the Grass festival letting loose in Bryon Bay, the sideshow circus around the country was in full swing. Co-headlining Splendour was the infamous Smashing Pumpkins, lead by vocalist/guitarist Billy Corgan with a new album in tow. In the lead up to Thursday night at Hisense Arena, there had been much speculation regarding the Pumpkins’ set. Corgan had previously stated that the band’s new album Oceania was to be played in full, aided by a ‘ground breaking’ spherical projection. The most striking thing upon entering the venue was how empty it seemed, with almost the entire top-level empty, as well as large chunks of the floor.
However, as the first few chords of ‘Quasar’ were played it became obvious for those who were there, that it would be a great show. Midway through Oceania, the more casual Smashing Pumpkins fans were getting impatient, with constant calls to play their old stuff. This only inspired the band to work harder, with Corgan visibly loving the opportunity to showcase the new record. Tracks like ‘The Chimera’ and ‘Pinwheels’ worked extremely well, with the former drawing the first large cheer for the night. Mention must be made of the image projection onto the giant sphere above the band as they played Oceania, it was a welcome addition that really gave an extra dimension to the songs that most weren’t too familiar with.
The softer ‘Wildflower’ signalled the end of Oceania and segueing straight into a mesmerising cover of David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’. The following 40 minutes saw the energy and atmosphere improve tenfold, with the band finally playing songs that punters knew. ‘Tonight, Tonight’ and ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’ in particular brought the 90s rushing right back, both inciting huge crowd sing a longs to the band’s delight. Even more special was the band dusting off classic ‘Luna’ and playing it for the first time in 18 years, only further inciting feelings of nostalgia. Finally, classic ‘Today’ was almost drowned out by the sheer amount of people singing along, after which the band left the stage to a roar befit of a crowd much larger than was in attendance.
After a few minutes of deafening calls for more songs, the band returned to the stage for an absolutely blistering encore. To the pleasure of thousands in attendance, ‘Zero’ was finally played, followed by ‘Ava Adore.’ Then finally, arguably The Smashing Pumpkins biggest hit in ‘Cherub Rock’ was played, forcing many people in the arena to jump out of their seats and dance along.
All in all, Thursday night was an excellent reminder that even as a 45 year old, Billy Corgan can still rock harder than any musician half his age. Despite what some punters thought, playing Oceania live in full was an excellent beginning to the set, albeit somewhat self indulgent, and the inclusion of some B-Sides would have pleased long time fans. With an appreciative Billy Corgan moving down to thank those in the front row for coming, it was a nice way to end the set.