REVIEW: Smashing Pumpkins, Jane’s Addiction in fine form at Chase Center

The Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlin

The Smashing Pumpkins perform at Chase Center in San Francisco on Nov. 15, 2022. Steve Carlson/STAFF.

SAN FRANCISCO — “Cherub Rock” was the dividing line.

It was getting late in the Smashing Pumpkins’ almost two-hour set Tuesday night at Chase Center. Until then, the crowd was pretty evenly spaced, age-wise, as far as being into the show. The Pumpkins have always featured sonic drifts on stage, where they veer off and forget the audience doesn’t have their attention span, no matter their ages.

But after a quick break for guitarist James Iha to introduce the band, with the crowd taking a breather itself, they started the opening riff for “Cherub Rock,” which is about as classic ’90s guitar rock as it gets. And the adults were up and moving again.

The Smashing Pumpkins, James Iha

The Smashing Pumpkins perform at Chase Center in San Francisco on Nov. 15, 2022.

Some of the younger folks (their kids, likely here for opener Poppy) kept sitting, perhaps missing that, while not the Pumpkins’ biggest hit, it was a song to which everyone over 40 had some connection. It was a great moment that felt like being back in that clique 25 years ago, when everyone knew—after the plastic ’80s—we’d hit a whole new motherlode of great, artistic powerful-yet-accessible music.

It felt great then, and it still does. The whole evening was about that connection.

Both Smashing Pumpkins and Jane’s Addiction were great Tuesday night; in control, relatively healthy and obviously appreciative of their 2022 status as ’90s alt-rock gods still filling arenas.

These bands (and most of their fans) are in their 40s and 50s now. Staying out past 11 on a Tuesday isn’t what it once was, but was so worth it.

Opening with “Starla,” Billy Corgan (in a long dark coat/dress) seemed to be testing his voice and getting warmed up, after a case of laryngitis forced the band to cancel Sunday night’s show in Portland.

There were many trips to the sidelines for Corgan on Tuesday to pop or spray something into his mouth. On a few songs, he eschewed the higher registers for easier lower notes, which was OK. The effort was noteworthy, especially when he made up for it with vicious guitar playing.

The Smashing Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins perform at Chase Center in San Francisco on Nov. 15, 2022.

Smashing Pumpkins neatly ripped through new song “Empires” before getting everyone up for “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” through which Corgan maneuvered his voice carefully, and continued through “Today.” They stayed relatively mellow for “We Only Come Out at Night” and 2020’s danceable “Cyr,” from the album of the same name.

They then broke out with a twisted, epically loud cover of the Talking Heads “Once in a Lifetime,” the riff of which could’ve been torn from an early Black Sabbath record. It was easily one of the most fun, strangest but intense covers ever attempted.

After sneaky-good single “Solara” (from 2018’s Shiny and Oh So Bright Vol. 1), the band added in electronic breathers “Eye” and “Ava Adore,” during which Corgan put down his guitar and acted like the host of a Halloween dance party. It wasn’t a reach.

Corgan and Iha did a fresh, stripped-down acoustic version of “Tonight Tonight,” then brought everyone back for “Stand Inside Your Love” and “I of the Mourning,” which were fine placeholders until “Cherub Rock” electrified the arena, after which happily singing along with “1979” seemed appropriate.

Jane's Addiction, Perry Farrell, Stephen Perkins

Jane’s Addiction performs at Chase Center in San Francisco on Nov. 15, 2022.

From there it was a chaotic, sonically intense run to the finish. “Beguiled” is a mid-tempo chunker that got good crowd response for a new song. Corgan and company finished everyone off by going back again (almost 30 years) to Siamese Dream for “Silverfuck,” the epic masterpiece of the night with extensive solos, pounding drumming from Jimmy Chamberlain (who still has almost inhuman skills) and enough noise to keep everyone’s ears ringing on the way home.

Jane’s Addiction did their own 75-minute, headliner-worthy set before the Pumpkins, fondly remembering selling jewelry for drugs in San Francisco back in the late ’80s and playing the long-gone Kennel Club. Singer Perry Farrell sounded great and, even more so than Corgan, seemed genuinely happy to have the band back together. Farrell choked up at one point, talking about how bassist Eric Avery came back after a long estrangement.

Dave Navarro is sitting the tour out as he recovers from long COVID-19. He was replaced by the dynamic and at times dominating guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, of Queens of the Stone Age. Former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer is also along for the fun as a second touring guitarist.

Jane's Addiction, Perry Farrell, Troy Van Leeuwen

Jane’s Addiction performs at Chase Center in San Francisco on Nov. 15, 2022.

The band opened with hypnotic “Up the Beach,” which became ‘Whores” and “Had a Dad,” after which a clearly moved Farrell told fans he wanted to put them on bread with some jelly and eat them up. That might’ve sounded strange coming from anyone else.

Farrell strutted through “Ocean Size” and “Then She Did,” before what sounded like all of Northern California sang along to a dreamy “Jane Says.”

>Everyone woke up fast to “Stop” and the Nothing’s Shocking gem “Ted, Just Admit It,” with drummer Stephen Perkins stretching his considerable skills through the up and down dynamics that has fueled Jane’s powerful weirdness for 35 years. They stuck with the Nothing’s Shockingera with “Mountain Song,” After “Three Days”—during which Van Leeuwen’s extended solo was fantastic, especially set to Perkins’ relentless warlike pounding—they finished with “Been Caught Stealing.”

While Jane’s Addiction and the Smashing Pumpkins were alt-rock gods in the ’90s, the genre’s present was also on display in opener Poppy. The shape-shifting artist opened the show with an eight song-set from four records, including the just-released Stagger EP, represented by “FYB” and “Pocket.” Six of the eight songs came from her last two long-players, I Disagree and Flux. Poppy is currently taking a break from a 70-date world tour to open for these alt-rock originators.

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(1) Comment

  1. Andre K.

    Did we see the same show? The sound for Jane’s was decent. The bass for the pumpkins set was so over the top you could barely hear the vocals or guitars. One of the worst Pumpkins shows I’ve ever seen (of 10+ over the years). Not sure if that’s the fault of the acoustics as the Chase Center, the sound board crew or both.

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