It took the Smashing Pumpkins 20 years to land on Philippine shores. With the only remaining Pumpkin Billy Corgan backed by a new lineup composed of Nicole Fiorentino on bass, Jeff Schroeder on guitars, and Mike Byrne on the drums, they were all set to rock Manila.
Originally promoted for an August 7 show date, the Philippine leg of the Oceania Tour 2012 was delayed by one day as Manila was experiencing another kind of ‘oceania’ due to the monsoon rains. But on August 8, it was made clear that no one could stop the Grammy Award-winning alternative band from pulling off an unbelievably great show.
Corgan is the man
A day before the originally scheduled concert date (August 7), the towering Smashing Pumpkins front man Corgan, appeared before members of the local press to promote the one-night show, even if he was feeling a bit under the weather. During an intimate gathering at the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong, he fielded questions ranging from the profound to the mundane for those present in the audience and left a mouthful of comments regarding various issues like the hijacking of the music business, his observations about alternative music and culture, connecting to people during live performances, the resurgence of 90s bands, and individual values.
Being there felt like hitting three birds with one stone – attending a presser, going at an insanely unexpected fan meet, and participating in a music appreciation class all at once. The guy’s profundity and eloquence blew my mind away, and made me feel like my understanding of the music industry was way, way dense.
It was the dumbing down of the things I thought I know, both as a nascent SP listener and as a voracious music connoisseur. “For every Elton John and Jimi Hendrix, there are ten thousand others that inspired them to lift other people up,” Corgan said about inspiring people to pick up and play musical instruments.
On a lighter note, the iconic vocalist narrated stories about being surrounded by Pinoys and even revealed that some of his closest friends are Filipinos. He shared an anecdote about working at a Filipino diner in Chicago back in the day. “It’s humbling to be in a place where you already have great respect for the culture,” he said.
Additionally, he noticed how big The Carpenters are in this side of the world. “I was sitting by the pool this morning, and I did notice that you guys play an amazing amount of Carpenters songs here,” he observed. But he admitted to liking the duo and opined that “Superstar” by the Carpenters is one of the best songs ever written.
Aside from talking in depth about making music, he talked about the band’s eighth full-length album, Oceania, which was primarily what the Manila show was about. As part of the 44-track Teargarden by Kaleidyscope mega-project, Corgan described Oceania as “an album within an album” — a concept album depicting alienation in love and alienation with culture.
“There’s something happening with the whole world about how we’re connecting and how we’re losing deeper connections. I think the album has something to do with that,” he said, believing that the subject is relevant to the year 2012 and to the ‘new generation’ of SP fans in general. He humbly noted, however, that he doesn’t expect everyone to give Oceania a second listen.
Spacey, dreamy Oceania
Fast forward to the evening of Wednesday, August 8, where thousands of rain-soaked fans of the Smashing Pumpkins waited for the Araneta Coliseum to swing its gates open. And as soon as it did, fans (a good number of them wearing the iconic Zero shirt) started filling out the venue slowly. Corgan tweeted hours prior that the band has decided to push back their start time to past 9 PM to give people coming from flooded areas and traffic-stricken roads more time to come to the venue. The long wait ensued for a few more hours; the concert goers would often roar in delight whenever the lights were dimmed or whenever SP songs get blasted off the speakers.
Deafening cheers filled the arena as soon as Corgan and his cohorts came out. The black curtains were dropped; revealing a humongous white orb suspended from The Big Dome’s ceiling, which was earlier reported to be used for video mapping the visuals throughout performances. As expected, the band opened with the song “Quasar,” the first track off the Oceania album. I came to my senses and finally got convinced that the twenty-year wait was over.
What followed were the songs “Panopticon,” and “The Celestials;” then tracks like “Violet Rays,” “My Love is Winter,” and so on – the set was done in the exact order as the songs appeared in the album – something totally unheard of this side of the globe. I have never seen such a thing. And although I’m admittedly unfamiliar with any of the 13 songs from Oceania, I could bluntly say it was the best stage and performance that I can commit to memory. Word couldn’t describe how the experience was – it was euphoric, to say the least.
Fulfilled pumpkin dreams
The second set was composed of anthemic songs from albums like Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Siamese Dreams, Adore, and Machina. “Old school na!” hollered the mid-30s guy beside me repeatedly. And he definitely got what he wanted the moment the band started playing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” followed by the powerful and grating performances of the songs “X.Y.U.,” “Disarm,” which was lovely, by the way; “Tonight, Tonight,” “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” the transcendental “Soot and Stars,” and “Luna,” something the band hasn’t played for years. Corgan and his crew closed the set with an epic performance of “Today,” which almost brought me close to tears (I’m being biased here because it’s a personal favorite).
But the crowd knew it wasn’t the last song because they still haven’t heard some of the bands greatest hits. he Pumpkins played a seven-song encore composed of classics like “Zero,” “Ava Adore,” “Cherub Rock,” “1979,” “Stand Inside Your Love,” and “Muzzle.” A cover of KISS’s “Black Diamond” with drummer Byrne on vocals capped off the amazing night.
In a fully substantive, almost Douglas MacArthur-esque fashion, Corgan promised on his official Twitter account (@Billy) that the band would be returning to the Philippines soon for another show. “For all the fans who CANNOT come tonight due to the weather we will come back again soon. We have been treated so well, and we thank you,” the SP founder tweeted. And hopefully, they would – under more favorable circumstances, of course (fair weather included).
We’re all willing to wait – even if it takes another twenty years.
Note: This article was originally published in the September 2012 issue of Gala Magazine.