September 6, 2023
Concerts

A review and photos of The Smashing Pumpkins in Ottawa

[More coverage from photographer Ross MacDonald and writer Karen Coughtrey. – AC]

Although summer doesn’t officially end until the end of the month, many consider the Labour Day weekend an end of summer celebration. We’re already being inundated with pumpkin fare so what better way to spend the long weekend than with a favourite 90s (and beyond) rock band that fits the theme. The Smashing Pumpkins brought their The World Is A Vampire Tour to Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre on Sunday night and were joined by special guests Interpol and Rival Sons

Rival Sons were first to take the stage and if you were previously unfamiliar with the band you may have thought they’d travelled here by time machine from the late 60s or early 70s as their musical style, stage presence, and even the way they interacted with the crowd was reminiscent of the era. Not your average opening act, the band has been putting out albums since 2009, and those who didn’t realize the night’s acts started at 6:30 or chose to skip the first opener really missed out. 

They opened with ‘Feral Roots’, the title track from their 2019 Grammy Award-nominated album. The audience enjoyed a total of eight songs from across their discography including ‘Sweet Life’ the first release from their album LIGHTBRINGER coming out October 20th. 

Lead singer Jay Buchanan skipped around the stage barefoot, even taking up a tambourine on some songs and many songs had long instrumental bits that really allowed all the members of the band to demonstrate their skilled musicianship. 

The band spoke little to the crowd between songs but in a memorable moment of the night Jay gave an impassioned speech about forgiveness, in particular forgiveness of self. He said, 

“You probably had no intention of coming to a big rock show and hearing something about forgiveness but it’s very important and it’s easy to overlook. The sort of forgiveness I’m going to talk to you about is when you need to forgive yourself because chances are you won’t do it. You’ll just live carrying around this rock that’s deep inside.”

He then shared some personal stories of tough times faced by friends that one can assume were the inspiration for their beautiful song ‘Where I’ve Been.’ It was a wonderful moment of truth and connection. The band followed it up by turning the energy back up to finish their set with ‘Keep On Swinging.’

Interpol were next to take the stage and played a packed set of 14 songs. They mostly played songs from their albums in the 00’s including ‘Obstacle 1’, ‘C’mere’, ‘No I In Threesome’, and of course their hit ‘Evil’; but also included ‘The Rover’, ‘All The Rage Back Home’, and from their latest album the singles ‘Toni’ and ‘Into The Night’.

Although the audience of course very much enjoyed the music, the story of the performance might be the lights. Each song had different interesting lighting effects but one thing they all had in common were a plethora of flashing lights, which were very intense in the closed space of the arena, making it hard to look at the stage at times. In some songs there was a band of flashing orange lights above the stage almost as if there was a herd of fire breathing dragons flying above them exhaling flames to the beat. 

Interpol put on a masterful performance that delighted the crowd, but said little to the audience and wrapped up their set with early hit ‘Slow Hands’.

With the peal of a gong Billy Corgan, as one would expect, dressed in a long black coat, and his fellow bandmates in The Smashing Pumpkins appeared on stage. Anyone familiar with their latest work would know that the gong signaled the opening of ATUM the first track of their album of the same name.

Although ATUM was a recording played as the band took the stage, they did perform the singles from that album for the excited crowd: ‘Spellbinding’, ‘Empires’, and ‘Beguiled.’

Although ATUM the album itself is described as a rock opera and was released in three parts between November 2022 and May of 2023, Corgan has also described ATUM as the third part of a trilogy of albums, or the sequel to, 1995’s Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness and their 2000 album Machina/The Machines of God. Knowing this, one might assume the setlist for this tour might include only songs off those three albums but that was not the case.

Of course they played songs from those albums, including ‘The Everlasting Gaze’ and ‘This Time’, ‘Jelly Belly’, and ‘1979’ with other songs from their biggest album being some of the most memorable of the night but the audience was also treated to songs from across their discography including ’Ava Adore’, ‘Today’, ‘Perfect’, ‘The Celestials’, and ‘Doomsday Clock’. 

They also played a couple of covers, connecting with the crowd by working Ottawa into the lyrics of The Talking Heads’ ‘Once In A Lifetime’ and also played Manfred Mann’s ‘Hubble Bubble (Toil and Trouble). It was during ‘Once In A Lifetime’ that James Iha pulled out his ray gun to use over the pickups of his guitar for some extra effects. Of course the band members all had a chance to show off their talents but memorable was Katie Cole using her pipes to lend her beautiful voice to some lead vocals on ‘Purple Blood’.

Billy was in fine form and the audience was treated to his unique sense of humour through his between-song banter with James Iha, who did most of the interacting with the audience. Billy told the crowd about his adventures around Ottawa that day with his kids, and the helpful Canadian he encountered before performing, with James, a wonderful acoustic version of ‘Tonight Tonight’ and inviting those who know the words to sing along and those who didn’t to “get the fuck out!” Billy’s kids also joined the band on stage later in the night, to the delight of the audience, they appeared to be having the time of their life and were showing off some excellent dance moves, clearly very comfortable in the spotlight.

Other humorous moments of the night included the joke that it was James Iha Jr performing tonight, who then isn’t old enough to remember the beginnings of the band and revealing that his grandfather had won the Stanley Cup as a goalie back in 1931 but Billy stumbled on the name of the trophy calling it the Planley Cup. 

The band played right to eleven with no leaving and coming back for an encore nonsense. Although many would think ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’ would have made the best choice for last song, they only made the crowd wait half way through the set for that favourite, which was a definite highlight of the night. The band finished instead with ‘Cherub Rock’ followed by ‘Zero’.

The Smashing Pumpkins
Billy Corgan – lead and backing vocals, guitars
James Iha – guitars, backing and occasional lead vocals
Jimmy Chamberlin – drums
Jeff Schroeder – guitars

Touring:
Jack Bates – bass
Katie Cole – keyboards, guitars, backing vocals

Interpol
Paul Banks – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, bass guitar
Daniel Kessler – lead guitar, piano, keyboards
Sam Fogarino – drums, percussion

Touring:
Brandon Curtis – keyboards, backing vocals
Brad Truax – bass guitar, backing vocals

Rival Sons
Jay Buchanan – lead vocals, rhythm guitar,
Scott Holiday – lead guitar, backing vocals
Mike Miley – drums, backing vocals
Dave Beste – bass, backing vocals

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37001 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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