The anticipation was palpable last week as Billy Corgan, the enigmatic frontman of The Smashing Pumpkins, took to the stage at the Grammy Museum the day before their sold-out SoCal show. His talk wasn’t the wild antics that the ’90s media once dubbed him for; instead, he was eloquent and passionate about the band’s journey, including their new album and his side venture in wrestling.

The following night, at the Irvine Amphitheater, The Smashing Pumpkins unleashed a performance that left no doubt about their continued prowess in the world of rock music. Their show was a testament to their enduring appeal, drawing in over 1200 attendees.

From the moment they took the stage, it was clear that The Smashing Pumpkins can still rock a stage. Energy surged through the crowd, as the Pumpkins played songs like “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” and “Disarm,” setting the tone for the night. As Corgan strummed the iconic chords of “Tonight, Tonight” on his acoustic guitar, the amphitheater erupted into a chorus of voices and cheers.

Credit Steve Rose

Photo by Steve Rose

It wasn’t just the music that captivated the audience. Billy Corgan, donning his signature makeup and an air of menace, was a force to be reckoned with. Alongside him, guitarist James Iha, affectionately referred to as “Space Cowboy” by Corgan, riffed with the crowd, creating an electric connection that transcended the stage.

As the night reached its climax, The Smashing Pumpkins concluded their set with the anthemic “Zero.” The venue pulsated with energy, and mosh pits immediately formed in the front of the amphitheater. After the final notes faded away, Corgan remained on stage, basking in the adoration of the crowd, waving to fans who had been dazzled by the performance.

The previous night, Billy Corgan addressed the Grammy Museum audience, reflecting on their legacy, recounting the early days, the highs and lows that defined their journey, and how they’ve overcome adversity to become an enduring force in the music woyrld. Corgan’s demeanor was far from the “wild man” label that once defined him; he was articulate, passionate, and in control.

The discussion turned to The Smashing Pumpkins’ latest album, “ATUM,” a three part, 33-song rock opera that defied convention. The order of Corgan recalled the skepticism they faced, with many doubting the feasibility of such an ambitious project. Yet, the album’s reception among listeners was overwhelmingly positive, and Corgan exuded a sense of accomplishment about the musical endeavor. 

Corgan’s vision for the band’s future is as vibrant as ever. He expressed his desire for the new album to be accompanied by a TV show or movie, an innovative approach that reflects the band’s ongoing evolution.

After more than three decades, The Smashing Pumpkins continue to reignite the passion of their fans. When asked about the state of alternative and rock music today, Corgan expressed optimism, asserting that the rock genre and its subgenres are experiencing a resurgence after years of change.

As The Smashing Pumpkins embarked on their nationwide tour, their concerts consistently sold out, a testament to their lasting impact. The Irvine Amphitheater show was just one stop on this remarkable journey, a night that reminded fans both old and new that the spirit of rock is very much alive, and it’s thriving in the hands of The Smashing Pumpkins.

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