Review: Smashing Pumpkins, O2 Academy

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WITH Nirvana’s Nevermind celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and Seattle rockers Pearl Jam also marking the same landmark, it seems a fitting time for fellow grunge stars The Smashing Pumpkins to be visiting these shores again.

And with them playing a relatively intimate venue compared to the conquests of the past, it was sure to be a hot ticket for fans.

The only remaining original member is frontman Billy Corgan. That said, Corgan, with his distinctive whispery voice, has always been the songwriting force behind the Pumpkins

And he had no difficulty in blowing away a packed Academy on Friday night with a two-hour set featuring a glut of their best-known tunes.

Most of the setlist came from critically-acclaimed albums Gish, Siamese Dream and the massive-selling Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.

Corgan doesn’t chat in between songs but rather lets his music do the talking. There’s no two-minute pop bursts here, but rather songs that build up powerfully over time – quiet verses and loud choruses making for an epic rock sound.

Curiously absent were singles Today - probably the band’s best-known song – and the beautiful Disarm.

That said, this version of the Pumpkins played a blinder, and the new members are more than capable of holding their own in a live setting. Highlights included Soma, Siva, Geek USA and Window Paine.

The main set ended with a storming version of Cherub Rock before an encore featuring Zero and Bullet with Butterfly Wings.

Carwyn Jones