Reunited Smashing Pumpkins may be more essential than ever

This writer can’t imagine a better way to start the summer than with a Pumpkins show outdoors in Columbus

Brad Keefe
Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins performs at Beale Street Music Fest at Liberty Park on Saturday, April 30, 2022.

For many legacy acts, it’s easy to pick a peak — the “you should have seen them when” era. With the Smashing Pumpkins, I could make the case that there’s no time like the present.

In a moment where '90s nostalgia is giving way to '00s nostalgia and a My Chemical Romance reunion is the place to be for middle-aged people recapturing their youth, I can’t imagine a better way to start the summer than with a Pumpkins show outdoors in Columbus.

My first Pumpkins experience was a similar night at Polaris Amphitheater (RIP) when the band headlined Lollapalooza ‘94, a show my younger self had hotly anticipated in the height of Siamese Dream hype, and it was… OK.

This was the beginning of Billy Corgan fully embracing the hype around his talent, and it was starting to show. I remember the performance being beset with minor sound problems and Corgan complaining about them throughout the night.

I can’t argue with Corgan’s hubris in releasing a goddamn double album next. Does Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness have filler? Sure, but you can’t convince me that it wasn’t essential as a double album.

And yet that tour also left me underwhelmed. It was ambitious and theatrical, but the material didn’t blow me away as much as anticipated.

The demise of the band’s original lineup made them less and less essential on my live music radar. I ended up being grateful I skipped a 2008 Halloween acoustic set at the Newport that included covers of “Hang On Sloopy” and “Monster Mash.”

But Corgan has seemed to mellow in recent years and become more willing to play a crowd-pleasing set for both the nostalgic fans and a new generation that discovered the band's early catalog more recently.

That old energy returned with the almost-complete reunion of the original lineup as guitarist James Iha and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain rejoined the Pumpkins.

Honestly, I think the band is better than ever, free of the shadow of superstar pressure the bandmates likely felt in their prime and the '90s rock cliché of the heroin cloud that hung over the band, culminating in the overdose death of Mellon Collie touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin.

The older and wiser band leaned into its legacy with a 2018 reunion tour, and Columbus is the final date of a mini-run leading up to a co-headlining tour with Jane’s Addiction in the fall.

The band has teased an epic new album, but this tour’s setlist is a career-spanning mix of greatest hits and amazing deep cuts from the peak Pumpkins era.

Factor in the special magic of an early summer outdoor show at Kemba Live on Saturday, May 28, and this feels like an essential get for Columbus. This is the Smashing Pumpkins experience we need right now.