Live Review: The Smashing Pumpkins, Wolfmother

7 August 2012 | 9:54 am | Adam Curley

More The Smashing Pumpkins More The Smashing Pumpkins

Let's first say this: it's unfair to expect a working musician to forever relive a set of songs that had commercial success. Billy Corgan has never stopped working and has resisted becoming a jukebox for his mid-'90s releases; in recent history he's rarely delved into the hits regardless of the membership of The Smashing Pumpkins. This arena gig then, billed as a show that will include the corkers, brings with it a concession on Corgan's part. In his pre-tour interview with Inpress, Corgan admitted to “trying to rebuild some kind of public image”. For all his talk of latest album Oceania being “a record within a record” – part of his larger Teargarden By Kaleidoscope project that has seen him release free singles online since 2009 – it can't be denied that the album is a weapon in that mission. It's a big, ambitious album both musically and thematically, released through a major label. If Corgan has to throw some candy to the masses in order to get them to pay attention to his public relaunch, that is what he will do.

Even the best-laid artistic and marketing plans rely on an audience to go along with them however. Tonight, the audience is made up primarily of dudes who would have been the right age to get teen-angsty to Siamese Dream, and they want the hits. They want them bad.

It's a shame because a lot of work has gone into the set design and plotting of the show. Following a predictable display of rawk from Wolfmother, who are met with little movement on the floor and not much more noise, Corgan and his young troupe appear and get to work on Oceania opener Quasar. The Smashing Pumpkins' backing curtain drops and a giant white globe suspended above the band is unveiled. Onto it starts a series of projections that fit with the concept of the thick, metallic record, which broadly interpreted is the creation of a fantastical world in which Corgan plays loving saviour to a friend/partner/you battling with inner demons.

And the half-booked arena does get all of Oceania, beginning to end. So for Quasar to The Celestials the globe takes us through a mathematical rendering of the cosmos; an impressive lighting setup affects an aurora during One Diamond, One Heart; and then we get terribly earnest DeviantArt (if you're too young to remember DeviantArt be thankful) sketches of people without faces and mythical spewage for standout song Pale Horse and The Chimera. For an album that really is a pretty grand re-entrance to concept rock from Corgan, full of longbow melodies and less of Corgan's frontman ego, a lot of the visuals seem cynically pitched at an unsophisticated audience. Those who are paying attention (and aren't in the long lines for the bars outside, talking loudly about the lack of hits, or yelling for the return of Wolfmother – yes, really) it's a decent play through a decent album.

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A surprisingly fun cover of Bowie's Space Oddity is chosen to transition from Oceania to the hits. The number of people on the floor near doubles in size as XYU turns back the clock and then Disarm, Tonight, Tonight, Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Luna, Today – you get the drift – stick Corgan and a moshing arena firmly in that time. Corgan seems to be truly feeding off the crowd's excitement and getting a little giddy himself. Maybe revisiting the past isn't as dire a scenario as he previously envisaged, or maybe he's just loving the adulation. Strangely, the earnest drawings that were mismatched to Oceania but would have added to the nostalgia trip have been replaced by sparkling lights that would have better suited a grown-up Corgan's new material. But it doesn't much matter: everyone here's getting what they paid for, the bald man on the stage included.