The Smashing Pumpkins returned to Milwaukee for the first time since 2012, and it just so happened to be the night before Halloween – how fitting! The Chicago-born band is no stranger to the city, and the spookiness of a crowd in costume made the Fiserv Forum concert on Sunday night all the more memorable as the band lived up to its legacy status.
Opening for the "Spirits on Fire" tour, Jane’s Addiction certainly started off strong with some questionable innuendo and Jeffrey Dahmer commentary. It’s safe to say lead singer Perry Farrell has a lot of zest left in him for a man of 63 years. Though the crowd didn’t seem to care for those elements, the band definitely saved it with a lovely acoustic performance of “Jane Says." And by the end, after watching a hit-filled set complete with three very flexible back-up dancers and one of their most popular songs, "Been Caught Stealing," as a closer, the audience voiced their approval.
The Pumpkins came out on stage with the 2022 release “Empires," a new track but with the same deep bass lines and complex guitar solos as their older stuff. A bold move for a band that ruled the '90s to open with a new song – but it worked, especially as they followed it up with two of their most well-known songs: “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “Today."
The Pumpkins have maintained their original sound throughout their 34-year-long career – often a struggle for older bands. But it works for them and it was evident during the Fiserv Forum setlist, as there wasn’t a stark contrast in the sound of their older songs versus the new. It’s fun when bands get experimental – but it’s also appreciated when they keep churning out the kind of stuff that made them popular to begin with.
Lead singer Billy Corgan and the rest of the band showed some Halloween spirit decked out in fun costumes on stage, but Corgan shared that this is nothing short of his normal appearance and that, “Everyday is Halloween." Guitarist James Iha wore the tattered ribbons of a mummy costume that made perfect sense for how well he could shred on his solos.
While the costumes were fun, Corgan also got open and personal on stage, sharing some sentimental experiences from the band's beginnings and their long relationship with Milwaukee.
“Our second gig ever was in Milwaukee; the second song a guy tried to pick a fight with me … that's all I’ve gotta share," he noted before adding, "What a beautiful, fantastic evening.”
The crowd pulled a very diverse group of people; with a quick scan of the audience, you'd almost get the impression it was a family-friendly event. Those kids are going to have a lot to brag about when they say one of their first concerts was the Smashing Pumpkins. It’s impressive to see them draw just as big of crowds as they did back in the '90s – and Corgan expressed his gratitude to the newbies just as he did the day ones. “Old school fans, new school fans: Happiness reigns in the kingdom of the pumpkin king,” he proclaimed.
The band prefaced an enchanting acoustic performance of “Tonight, Tonight” by dedicating the hit to everyone in the room, which made for an intimate break in between some of the heavier songs. And as the night went along, there was a perfect balance of newer and older songs that could still hold the attention of fans who only came to hear the hits.
During “Beguiled,” Corgan’s kids joined him on the stage in adorable dinosaur costumes – and it just so happened that they weren’t the only guests for the night. Guitarist Michael Angelo Batio came out with an electric solo for the night's closing song, “Silverf*ck," complete with red lightning on the screen behind him.
Despite the challenges and changes within the band over the years, the chemistry is still there – and certainly the musical talent is, judging by the Fiserv Forum show. Is there any better way to welcome in Halloween than a Smashing Pumpkins concert? Everyone in attendance on Sunday night certainly has their answer.
"Bullet with Butterfly Wings"
"We Only Come Out at Night"
"Once in a Lifetime" (Talking Heads cover)
"Stand Inside Your Love"
"I of the Mourning"