Live Review: The Smashing Pumpkins, Sugar Army

2 August 2012 | 11:30 am | Cam Findlay

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There wasn't much divulged about tonight's gig; everyone knew that one of the world's premier alternative rock bands would deliver a typically awesome show, but few knew of the sneaky little surprise that Corgan and co. would provide.

First off, though, local rockers Sugar Army filled out the front of the obviously daunting Challenge Stadium stage. The five-piece seemed perfectly suited for such a large and encompassing venue. Sugar Army's archetypal use of heavy resonance, big bass drives and deep pitching served as the perfect introduction for the night. Despite frontman Patrick McLaughlin's admission that he's “not used to singing in stadiums,” he delivered his lines with clarity and power. The crowd responded enthusiastically between songs, but not much movement was seen, despite the Sugars playing some of their more poppy, upbeat tracks. It was recent single, Hooks For Hands, that served as a highlight, though, with McLaughlin announcing a new album coming up in September. Stay tuned, folks.

Well, onto what everyone was waiting for. The Smashing Pumpkins might have been keeping mum about what shape their set would take, but no doubt it would be eclectic. A caveat: if you have listened to new album, Oceania, as consistently as this reviewer has, the first half was almost a chore; the entire album, back to back, with little in the way of chatter or explanation from Corgan. As the black sheet dropped and a massive, logic-defying orb made its presence known with a spectacular visual projection, the band immediately launched into album opener, Quasar, and there was little letting up from there. The audience seemed pretty nonplussed, hearing an entire album of tracks that has only very recently been released. Don't get me wrong, the show was great, but it didn't stop a few douchebags shouting out from the crowd in the small gaps. They may have been shouting for the classics – and, in a pleasant surprise, that's just what happened.

The Pumpkins were pretty restrained through the Oceania set, which became obvious as they launched into the second half. As soon as the words “This is Ground Control to Major Tom” were uttered, the crowd went up in cheers, and the fan service set had begun. Corgan finally took time to talk to the audience, thanking them for listening to their new album in full, before starting off a non-stop medley of hits. X.Y.U., an intense and powerful rendition, folded into Disarm, which folded into Bullet With Butterfly Wings, which folded into Bury Me, and so on and so forth. After a rapturous call for “one more song”, the band responded with one of the most potent renditions of the Pumpkins' (personal opinion) greatest hits, Cherub Rock, Zero and Ava Adore, before Corgan took some time to thank the overjoyed.

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